Lech Walesa

Past Global Perspectives Guest Speaker

From electrician to labor leader to Nobel Prize Laureate to the elected President of Poland, Walesa left a changed world. He will meet with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests in his hometown of Gdansk.

A charismatic leader, Walesa co-founded Solidarity (SolidarnoϾ) in 1980, the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, a 10 million-member labor movement that inspired hope in the hearts of those starved for freedom. Soon after beginning work at the Gdansk (then "Lenin") Shipyards, he became a trade-union activist. For this he was persecuted by the Polish communist government, placed under surveillance, fired in 1976, and arrested several times. In August 1980 he was instrumental in negotiations that led to the ground-breaking Gdansk Agreement between striking workers and the government.

Despite the crackdown of martial law, Walesa prevailed to see the end of communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe. For his heroic efforts, Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. He received praise from leaders worldwide for his honor, including these words from President Reagan, "It's a victory for those who seek to enlarge the human spirit over those who seek to crush it."

In 1990, he was elected President of Poland. His term in office set Poland firmly on the path to becoming a free market democracy, enabling Poland to receive one of the first invitations to join an expanded NATO. He heads the Lech Walesa Institute whose aim is to champion democracy and free market reform in Eastern Europe and throughout the world.

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