S O L I D A R I T Y: Walesa vows to help U.S. fight terrorism Lech Walesa, in a lecture Tuesday night in Slagle Auditorium, said American prosperity is the product of the efforts of "the best daughters and sons of all the nations" who have settled here. by David Lias Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa vowed Tuesday to do everything he can to help the United States win what he describes as "a third world war" against terrorism.
"I have decided to stay for the next two months, be here in person without going back home, in order to participate in our coming victory in the third world war," he told his audience in Slagle Auditorium on the campus of The University of South Dakota.
Walesa's lecture, titled "Solidarity � The New Millennium," was co-sponsored by the W. O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership, the USD Office of Research and Graduate Education, and the Young America's Foundation.
To win a final victory over terrorism, the United States needs to demonstrate its great military potential, Walesa said.
"Perhaps there are also certain individuals who deserve a little smack because they have done the wrong things, but the final victory needs to be a great victory that will be appropriate for the 21st century," he said.
Gone is the shock of brown hair and mustache of the man who burst into the world spotlight in 1980 during the infamous Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland.
Today, Walesa has the appearance of a grizzled warrior, his hair and mustache turned gray with time.
His words Tuesday night, however, revealed Walesa to be a man of great intellect and humor, who has tasted firsthand how sour a life without freedom can be.
It is freedom, he said, that makes the United States' efforts against terrorism worthwhile.
"You must realize one thing, that many people around the world resent you," he said. "Not because it is your fault, but because there is no leadership in the world, because there is no empowerment for the (other) leaders to lead the world.
"Actually, the United States is there to do all of the dirty work for everybody else," Walesa said. "You enjoy such great prosperity, you are such a powerful nation, because it was to the United States that the best daughters and sons of all the nations around the world did come."
Generations of people traveled across oceans to America, he said, because they felt confined living in countries like Poland and under similar regimes in countries around the world.
"With hard work, with a lot of sweat and tears shed into the American soil, you built up the power of the United States," Walesa said. "The world must not allow any madman to destroy this power of the United States."
The former electrician shared a most profound political observation � one that perhaps only could be made by a person who has lived without political freedom.
"I believe the United States is even more badly needed to the world than to the United States itself," Walesa said.
The audience responded with applause.
"It is in the interest of all of us to meet properly the challenges of our times," he said, "and I think we don't really need a lot of effort to come up with proper solutions."
Walesa, with the use of an interpreter, communicated with not only words, but energetic gestures as he spoke.
He had no trouble in not only delivering a spoken message, but also bonding with his Vermillion audience.
"I consider every second of our common time, yours and mine, as extremely precious. I know we are a chosen generation," Walesa said.
So many generations of the past have struggled, he said, for today's society to have the opportunities it enjoys today.
"Here we are. We just have been given this great gift of a totally open world. Of course there are some exceptions, and they are minor exceptions," he said, referring to nations that live under Communism or other repressive political regimes. "They will join the rest of us sooner or later."
Walesa became known around the world two decades ago when Polish workers, incensed by an increase in prices set by the Communist government, were demanding the right to organize free and independent trade unions.
On Aug. 14, 1980, Walesa, an electrician who had long been active in the underground labor movement, arrived at the barricaded shipyard just as the dispirited workers were on the verge of abandoning their strike.
Scaling the shipyard walls, he delivered a stirring speech from atop a bulldozer. Revitalized by his passion, the strike spread to factories across the nation. Christened "Solidarity," the strike became a social revolution.
Walesa entered into negotiations with the government, convincing it to grant legal recognition to Solidarity and the right to form independent unions and to strike to workers. This became the Gdansk Agreement, which Walesa signed on Aug. 31, 1980.
Walesa was named Man of the Year by Time magazine, The Financial Times, The London Observer, Die Welt, Die Zeit, L'Express, and Le Soir.
Over the next 18 months, however, relations between Solidarity and the government became progressively worse until, on Dec. 31, 1981, the Polish government declared martial law.
It suspended the activities of all unions and arrested thousands of Solidarity members, including Walesa. In the fall of 1982, the government officially outlawed Solidarity.
Walesa was released that same fall. Under his leadership, Solidarity continued to exist as an underground organization. Celebrated worldwide as a symbol of the hope for freedom, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. For the next five years, the country became marked more and more by chaos and labor unrest. Acknowledging that it could no longer control the country, the government re-legalized Solidarity and invited it to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government.
In the resulting election, Solidarity won almost every contest.
His leadership having ended Communist rule and planted the seeds of freedom and democracy in his country, Walesa was ready to take on a new role to serve Poland. On Dec. 9, 1990, he became its first democratically elected president, winning more than 74 percent of the votes cast. His term in office set Poland firmly on the path to becoming a free market democracy.
Walesa made Poland a model of economic and political reform for the rest of Eastern Europe to follow and earned it the honor of receiving one of the first invitations to join an expanded NATO.
Today, he heads the Lech Walesa Institute with a goal to advance the ideals of democracy and free market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.