Fill out the brief form below for access to the free report.
Those who change the course of human events are not always what we expect. Poland’s Lech Walesa is one such example. His unlikely origins as the face of Poland’s freedom movement are part of what makes his story inspirational. Starting as an electrician in a Baltic shipyard, Walesa led the movement that toppled communism in Poland and won the presidency of his country.
Walesa was born on September 29, 1943, in Popowo, Poland. He was a principal organizer of the Lenin Shipyard Strike in August 1980 and as spokesman for the workers, he quickly became the labor movement’s public face. Walesa’s negotiations with communist authorities and support of workers’ rights inspired Poles and resulted in the establishment of the Solidarity trade union, the first independent labor union in the communist world. Solidarity soon expanded its reach beyond labor issues and became the hub for the country’s opposition activity, uniting democratic forces across Poland. After martial law was declared on December 13, 1981, Solidarity was outlawed and Walesa was among the first to be arrested and imprisoned.
After the fall of communism, Walesa became the first democratically elected president of Poland on December 22, 1990. While in office, Walesa was a driving force in Poland’s European integration, laying the groundwork for Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.
Meet Lech Walesa on the Freedom Collection and share in his experiences from a pivotal moment in history:
- Overcoming Fear – “At the beginning everyone's afraid, but with the passage of time you are able to defeat fear.”
- Reagan, Mitterand, and Thatcher – “And all these people were fed up with communism.”
- Gorbachev and the Fall of Communism – “Anyone wanting to stop this thing would have had to kill between one million to ten million people.”
Christopher Walsh is the Program Coordinator, Freedom Collection.
Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe