Former commander of Poland's armed forces (as a past president of Poland), Lech Walesa is depicted (right) delivering a hand salute to the assembled members of the Polish Legion of American Veterans after being presented with gifts that included the PLAV cap that he is wearing with obvious delight. At right is Department and Post Commander Eugene Pawlikowski, Sr., at left is official interpreter Magdalena Iwinska. The occasion was the 21st Annual Instillation of Officers, PLAV S/Sgt. Joseph A. Jagiello Post No. 191, Washington Metropolitan Area, in Silver Spring, Maryland on September 25, 2005.
Following the grand banquet, Walesa's rousing speech, which also honored all veterans and their sacrifices, was heard by the assembly and guests from the Embassy of Poland that included Ambassador Janusz Reiter, Deputy Chief of Mission Boguslaw Winid, Culture & Public Affairs Counselor Mariusz Brymora, and Brigadier General Kazimierz Sikorski, Defense and Air Attache. Having recently arrived in Washington from Warsaw, Ambassador Reiter was honored to use the PLAV forum to make his first United States appearance and remarks, ideally occurring in front of a Polonia audience.
Capitol Hill Luncheon Honors Solidarity and Walesa
On September 26, 2005 a luncheon was held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the "25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Solidarity Movement in Poland." The event was sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in conjunction with U.S. Congress members Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Representative Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey), who are the 2 Co-Chairs of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In addition to Rep. Smith, other speakers were Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor, and Paula J. Dobriansky, Deputy Secretary on Global Issues, U.S. Department of State. The very special guest of honor, and speaker extraordinary, was the Honorable Lech Walesa, Solidarity founder and former President of Poland.
Walesa took to the podium and delivered a fascinating and multifaceted speech through his interpreter. He covered topics that ranged from Solidarity, the European Union, international relations, the global economy, technology and the internet, and spiritual values. One of his most notable quotes was when he spoke of Solidarity's struggles and ultimate triumph, supported by the Polish people, over Poland's imposed, oppressive communist government in the 1980s: "We were the first. We knocked the teeth out of the mouth of the Russian bear. When everyone saw that the bear had no teeth and was harmless they lost their fear and could follow. This led to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the downfall of communism." Walesa spoke this with a small, wry smile gracing his face. Many members of the august audience nodded their heads in silent, knowing agreement.
You may also enjoy a book written by Rebecca Stefoff entitled: Lech Walesa: The Road to Democracy (Great Lives)
The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (Third Edition) by Timothy Garton Ash, Timothy Garton Ash