Lech Walesa’s Winsome Call for Globalization

Letter From North Carolina

For the last 20 years of the world’s bloodiest century, Lech Walesa, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, was a man on a pedestal in my pantheon of contemporary heroes, one of those who had helped bring about an end to communism in Eastern Europe and the demise of the Soviet Union.  Now, here he stood before me on a warm November afternoon—this leader of Solidarity, Nobel Prize winner, and former president of Poland—speaking through a translator named Magda to more than 300 students in the Hines Auditorium at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.  Although somewhat heavier these days—he joked about his attempts at dieting, garnering a laugh from the students—Walesa, with his lancer’s moustache and rumpled, weary face, still looked very much like the man who had once gazed with implacable determination from television screens and magazine covers.

Walesa immediately befriended his audience, telling the students that those who began snoring should move to the back of the room and sharing with them several stories regarding airport inspections since the terrorist attacks on September 11.  He then spoke of his role in the battle against communism in Poland.  He explained to the students how he and a few others realized that they didn’t have the guns to fight a war against the Soviet military and that street demonstrations frequently ended in bloodshed. ...

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