1989 30th Anniversary Tribute to Lech Wałęsa Wrap-Up

1989 30th Anniversary Tribute to Lech Wałęsa Wrap-Up


♪♪♪ Tonight we want to say
thank you to Lech Walesa and to let him know that
we have not forgotten the importance of that moment in 1980 when he jumped over that
shipyard wall in Gdansk to join his fellows-
He had been fired so he was rejoining them as colleagues. And to create the first
free trade union and actually really the first
independent institution of any kind in the Communist world. Earlier this month as has
been noted previously, I introduced a resolution
commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall
of the Berlin Wall and the rise of democracy
in Eastern Europe. My hope is, and was when
I introduced that that this resolution not only
celebrates the hard-fought democracy in Eastern Europe, but it encourages activists
around the world to keep pushing. As we see today in Hong Kong,
in Venezuela, and Russia, freedom and democracy will be
achievable for these people but sometimes it’s when you
least expect it. But as we celebrate this
anniversary we must not forget that democracy is
never finished. You don’t just obtain it and
then claim victory. It is a work ongoing, a constant
adjustment in changing times. I’m proud of the strides of
Poland and its Eastern European neighbors have made and I
thank all of the people that gave up so much to create
a better world for their children and
their grandchildren and really for the world. [In 1989], a humble electrician
from the working-class Polish city of Gdansk spoke
before a joint session of the
United States Congress. He described his years long
struggle for freedom and asked for support from
the United States. That man of course was soon
to be President Walesa. More than anyone else, President
Walesa helped us understand the heroic and honorable fight
that the people of Poland and others throughout
Central and Eastern Europe were waging to win their
freedom over dictatorship. When you see people struggling
for their freedom and actually winning the fight, it’s
really something that’s mind changing, it’s
life changing, that’s a cause that we all
know is important and we all want to believe in. So President Walesa, thank
you so much. Today we honor the bravery, the
tenacity, the discipline, the innate goodness of Nobel
Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa and the great organization,
the labor organization that he led, Solidarity. Now I got elected in 1980
with Ronald Reagan. We always looked up to this
man and couldn’t believe what he was accomplishing
against all odds. So I want to thank him for that
leadership, it is extraordinary. Americans sometimes don’t
appreciate that democracy doesn’t exist
everywhere in the world. In fact, when I do town hall
meetings I frequently at the end will at the end will
say “This is what’s great about this country. Someone can come in and
criticize a public official and not leave in handcuffs
that night.” But that’s the way it is in
a large part of the world. And that’s the way it was when
Lech Walesa was in Poland. The bottom line is that 31
years ago I was getting commissioned as
a naval officer, never to imagine how
quickly after that the dominoes would fall and in
fact democracy would take root in Central and Eastern Europe,
but it did. I spoke of Solidarity as an
inspiration in my first congressional campaign in
September in that same year of 1989. And since then, my husband and
I have always shown the Solidarity symbol so that the
new generation does not forget. We’ve got to teach the young
people about the history of what went on so we can celebrate
the present and cherish the new tomorrow. And while I am certain that the
Polish people are justly proud of their 1989 accomplishments,
I’m also certain that the Polish people do not fully
recognize how inspirational their actions were to the rest
of the world. What an inspiration your
movement and you have been to enslaved and oppressed
people everywhere. Muchísimas gracias amigo.
(Thank you so much my friend.) Despite experiencing
dismemberment in the 1700s and then again during
World War II, the Poles love of liberty simply
could not be suppressed. And I would hope that some of
you here tonight could help me build a path for liberty
across Poland. And remember some of these
stories and remind the younger generation of Poland, as
well as the United States, of what the cost of liberty
truly is. The favorite expression of my
favorite cavalrymen always was “Freedom means never
surrender. Never.” And I thought what a lesson. What a lesson for our own people and what a lesson for
the future. The Berlin Wall fell because communism had already fallen
in Poland. Leszek Balcerowicz and
Lech Walesa were betting on the
Polish people. I mean that was a big bet,
right? Nobody had overthrown communism
before so there was no body of knowledge, there was
no science to post communist transformation because nobody expected it
would ever happen. They bet on the Polish people
to step up. And they did, and it worked! This is a woodcut of the Goddess
of Democracy which is the statue that was put up in
Tiananmen Square before the tanks came in on June 4th, 1989. By the way, I think it’s worth
noting that the election in Poland, the
breakthrough election was June 4th, 1989. The very same day that the
tanks rolled in to Tiananmen Square and destroyed
this statue. It’s quite important and that
this is the gift and the award that we want to give
to Lech Walesa. [Applause] [Applause] ♪♪♪

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