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About her presidential candidacy, the education and priorities of this country

Fast Confession - the youngest rector in the Czech Republic Danuše Nerudová: Some Czech politicians should fill the gaps in their education, learn some English

Karolína Lišková
29.Sep 2021
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9 minutes to read

First off, we would like to applaud Danuša Nerudová. Apart from the fact that she is only 42 years old and has already managed to become the historically first woman at the head of Mendel University in Brno and at the same time the youngest rector in the Czech Republic, she is also a full-time mother and a great woman whose name appeared in the list of prospective candidates for President of the Czech Republic. Although her schedule is meticulously planned and quite busy, she seems to be handling it all with ease. What´s more, having a pleasant chat about everything that comes to mind was a more than a pleasant bonus of the interview that the university teacher gave to

Danuše Nerudová s hrnečkem kávy.
Danuše Nerudová s telefonem v ruce.
Nerudová ve sportovním.

You live in Brno, but we´re meeting in Prague. Are you here on leisure or on business?

Actually, I go to Prague very often, and yesterday I had the honour of attending a party with my husband after a long time, which we really enjoyed. So I was already in Prague this morning and I didn't have to go through the whole D1 experience. I´m grateful for that.

That would be my next question. How do you find driving on the D1 to Prague?

I have to say that sometimes it's not easy at all. There are days when it's not so bad, but I don't think it's the 21st-century standard.

I would imagine that a woman like you, who holds such a post, or several posts in fact, long deserves to have her own driver.

Well, rectors do have their own drivers, so I sometimes go with a driver, but because I'm a driver myself and I go alone every now and then, I can say the situation on the highway can be tragic.

Prodej exkluzivní vily, Praha 4 - Kunratice
Prodej exkluzivní vily, Praha 4 - Kunratice, Praha 4

Whenever I do an interview with a politician, I ask them in Fast Confession why there are so few women in politics. Most often, they give me the answer that it is a very inhospitable environment both for men and even more so for women. Your name popped up as one of the possible candidates for President of the Czech Republic. I would like to know if you feel up to it at such a young age. If, with your current post that - as you said - you consider an honour, you really want to plunge into politics.

I personally believe that if we want greater participation of women in public affairs, then it is not enough just to talk about it, but we need to set a personal example. When I mentor young women, for instance successful scientists, they keep asking how they can help and how they can contribute to making women more visible in public space. I always say, be an inspiration to others and try to be present in the public space yourself. When someone invites you to a conference, don't automatically refuse it and try to do everything you can to speak there, because unfortunately, our participation is really low.

How do you explain that female participation is low?

Not all women are willing to face what being active in the public space entails. At the moment, it's not nice in the Czech Republic at all. It's not nice for women in general, and it's not nice at all if you open topics that are considered taboo or that don't suit someone, but it's also that many women don't want to face this, so they decide not to enter the public space.

And you feel up to it?

I definitely feel up to it. I have already experienced public space during the rector elections, and I also experience it at university. I have experienced it as the chairwoman of the pension committee, too, where I had to coordinate a relatively heterogeneous team of politicians, experts and social partners, who each spoke a different language and weren't listening to each other. I had to bring this whole group to some consensus or result. I had to teach them to listen to each other and I think it worked out quite well.

Trying to imagine being in your shoes and having to fight for my place in the sun, I'd find it difficult, because I still see women being pushed away from these things. Did you have such an experience, having to fight?

Yes. I have always been the youngest, whichever post I took. But I never really cared about any of that. I've always been doing my own thing, getting the work done, and I think that's the best answer to these remarks. Today, they have no effect on me whatsoever and I don't let them upset me at all. I'm not twenty-five anymore, I'm not even thirty, I'm not even thirty-five, I'm not even forty anymore, so, naturally, the situation is a little different today, because at this age you actually do have some life experience under your belt, so, of course, some of the arguments no longer apply.

I've read the interview in Heroine. You even won a poll there about who should be sitting at the Prague Castle. How did it make you feel? Are you going to run for president?

At first, I was surprised, but then it evoked a great sense of humility in me, as well as a certain commitment and responsibility. I am a person who has been used to having responsibility throughout my whole life since I was a child. I am the eldest of four children, I've always been responsible for my brother and sister, due to which I often feel a sense of responsibility even in cases when other people probably wouldn't.

I would very much like to see a woman in this high-ranking position, and I think a lot of Czech women would say the same.

I feel like we are often grasping for Slovak straws here, and it needs to be said that it's impossible to draw a parallel between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We need to realize that in Slovakia, the female President didn't fall from the sky - Slovakia had already had relatively strong candidates in the last presidential election. In the first election, it was Magda Vášáryová and in the second election former Prime Minister Iveta Radičová.

In fact, it took three attempts for a female candidate to win. The Czech Republic is not Slovakia, and I believe that at the moment, given the situation, the discussion should be primarily about the need for a President who will stand up for the country's citizens and perform his functions properly, rather than using the Constitution as a tear-off calendar. We need a president who will listen to everyone and who will be able to communicate with all population groups, not just some.

Could you do that?

That's upon you to judge in the opening of the article. It's up to others to judge that, not me.

You told me you have three siblings. And you also have two sons. That means your family is quite large. I wonder what your family says when you bring it up at home. Do they support you? How do your children perceive it, for example?

Well, one of my sons is nine years old and the other is fifteen. They often bring it home from school, especially from their friends, but my husband has always supported me in everything, and I have supported him, so it's not a burning issue for us.

What I'd like to know is, if they read somewhere that you're a potential presidential candidate, what do they say?

So, first of all, I'm still in the position of rector and I'm not running for president yet. But I don't think anyone finds it surprising, because as I've said, I've always been the responsible one in our family - the one who feels she has to lead by example if she wishes for a change to happen. After all, it was the very same motivation what made me run for rector. Because I wasn't one of the candidates who kept saying they wished to become a rector from the beginning. I had a relatively successful career as an academic scientist, was working on foreign projects and I enjoyed my work. At one point, however, one began to run into institutional limits, such as that our team could not grow any further and that there was no one in the university management who wanted to do anything about the situation.

Luxusní byt na prodej Praha - 320m
Luxusní byt na prodej Praha - 320m, Praha 5

We kept pointing it out until we reached the point where my colleagues told me that since I was pointing out how things should be done and claiming that I wished to make changes in the system, I should perhaps try to apply for the post. And that was when I realized that it would have been awfully cowardly of me not to try, because those things were obviously wrong. They were limiting us and I wanted to be in a situation where I had the opportunity to influence them.

I would say this is the same case. It was simply related to my motives, why I ran for rector and why I tried to change the situation at the university. And I think I've definitely changed it - everyone I meet tells me that, which carries a lot more weight than my personal opinion.

All I wanted was to change things I wasn't happy with, and there was nothing selfish about it, as is the case with a lot of men who want to be addressed as “Mr Rector”. I didn't care about that. I wanted to change things to allow others to grow and to become an inspiration for other scientists, showing them that changes are possible and it pays off to keep trying. Which I think worked, because I raised two women who are very capable in university management. So these are my motives, and I don't think anyone finds that surprising.

You say you wanted to change what was wrong with the situation at the university. But what about changing things that are wrong in this country. I think there are more of them than whatever was wrong at your university, and it's pretty evident, but not everyone has the courage to face it.

It's about personal responsibility. It's about the fact that one really cares and is invested in making the change.

So can I convince you to tell me whether you'll run for president?

If the elections were held right now, I would give it a try, but I am currently a university rector and my term doesn't end before January next year.

You said you have to build your position and some people may not like that, especially when you open themes that others don't want to talk about. What are the burning topics you would personally like to open?

As an economist, of course, I often talk about the country's indebtedness, living at the expense of future generations, about the fact that we fail to create good enough conditions for doing business in the Czech Republic and that we have not been able to make any lasting reforms in this country in a very long time.

Instead, we are taking populist, immediate steps that have a visible immediate effect, which is completely self-destructive for our society, because nobody is doing things that are beyond the 4-year term horizon. And we'll pay dearly for it. It is closely related to the impact on society, because there are groups of people here who feel like no one is listening, they are on the fringes of society. Then there are the groups of people who feel like their lives haven't really improved in the thirty years since communism. That inability to understand the needs of others, the inability to listen and the inability to communicate lead to a radicalization of a part of our society, which can be clearly seen in the election results.

These are all things that need to be talked about. It is necessary to talk about the fact that the pension system won't be our only problem. Healthcare, for instance, will be a problem, too, but nobody talks about that. But the time bomb is ticking there just as loud as in the pension system. And we could go on like this. All these topics mainly concern the future, not the immediate present, and no one opens them, no one talks about them.

Is there at least someone who has it in their election program, is anyone promising to breach these topics?

I have recently read and evaluated election programs, because I was asked to comment on the economic aspects. I must say that I am very glad that what was designed in the pension committee has been transformed into election programs by the electoral blocs Spolu and the Pirate Party. It can be seen that a consensus has been reached. In the area of consolidation of public finances, I must say that I find the Pirate Party offers a somewhat more conceptually strategically elaborated consolidation, but Spolu also came up with a solution. So I think that in these two main coalition blocs, one can find a whiff of responsibility and future.

I would still like to touch on your personal life. How do you handle it all? By which I mean your function and huge responsibility as well as housework and the upbringing of your children?

Of course, it's very challenging and it's all about personal discipline and good time management. I am very lucky that when it comes to this, my husband is great support, we split a huge portion of housework. When he needs to work more, I take on more duties, and when I need to work more, he takes on more duties. Of course, both grandmothers are also great support, we can always rely on them.

What does your husband do if I may ask?

My husband is a lawyer.

That is quite a time-consuming job that also affects the home environment. On top of that, I've read that you bought and rebuilt a farm and use it for recreational purposes. So tell me what brings you joy when you don't have to work or take care of your family.

The farm really is a sanctuary of sorts for us, where we can close the door and cease to exist for the outside world. So, about four years ago, we bought an old rectory in the Vysočina region, which we renovated to its original state. It is where we spend our free time and relax.

Doesn't going to one's weekend house involve a lot of work?

We try not to work too hard, but my husband loves to mow the grass because he fulfilled his childhood dream and bought a tractor, so now he wants to go to Vysočina and mow the grass all the time. (laughter)

Thank you very much for the interview.

Fast confession:

What is the first thing you would do as the President of the Czech Republic?

I would open all the windows in the Castle, remove barricades and roadblocks and make it accessible to people.

What does the title of the youngest rector in the Czech Republic mean to you in one sentence?

Great honour, humility and gratitude to everyone who has been supporting me and walked with me on this journey.

What do you think the Czech education system lacks?

Education for the 21st century.

What education do you think our politicians should complete?

Some of them could use English lessons.

What punishment would you deem fit for a man or woman who is guilty of domestic violence?

A fair one, for any kind of violence.

Have you ever committed a misdemeanour in your life?

Of course. I got a fine for parking.

What advice would you give the Czech Prime Minister?

To devote as much time and effort to leading our country as possible.

What do you think a woman simply can't handle and has to ask a man for help?

Which woman do you mean?

What do you value most about your husband?

Honesty and the fact that he's been supporting me throughout life.

What life advice do you instil in your sons?

That the saying “Honesty is the best policy” still stands.

Would you impose charges for education?


How much money should a Czech senior get to have a decent pension?

As much as he or she needs to live with dignity.

If I were to visit you in Brno, where would you take me?

To the Brno dam.

Who do you think will win the October elections?

I think the statistics speak for themselves.
Question by the interviewee for the interviewer:

Did you ask me all the questions you wanted?

I hope we didn't miss anything!
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