Lech Walesa Reflects on Working Toward Peace
an idealist, in the sense that I would like to see us move
toward an ideal that I believe in. But I know how each of
us has his own set of standards, formed by childhood, school,
living conditions, and experiences in adult life. Though
private standards differ they must also share common points
of reference. We're never going to go back to the time when
men fought with daggers and swords and went to war to settle
personal disputes. Already the young people of every nation
are coming to resemble each other more and more, and are
slowly becoming strangers to chauvinism and racism.
Organizing a set of basic personal values to which one
can refer is a long and difficult process: it took me years
and is today still incomplete. I know who I am and what
I stand for. Now I am able to devote my time and energy
to other problems.
This kind of spiritual equilibrium doesn't exempt one
from fear. Fear takes many forms: there's fear in the face
of suffering, fear of not having enough time, fear of not
being able to explain oneself, fear of not doing well enough,
fear of death. How is one to cope? I once knew a priest
who was putting money to one side so that he would be able
to afford a nurse when he was no longer able to care for
himself. "You saved your millions for nothing,"
I told him. "If you're struck down by some terrible
disease, no one will come to care for you despite your money.
But if you've been kind and generous when you were in good
health, many will help you for nothing."
A life devoted to the exchange of ideas doesn't mean freedom
from loneliness. Most of my tasks involve group effort,
and [my wife] Danuta has always stood by and supported me
in my work. I am almost always in the company of others,
but that doesn't prevent me from feeling almost always alone.
I sometimes feel as if I belong to a past age, the age
which is evoked in our national anthem, "Poland has
not perished." The conditions in which this anthem
saw the light of day are much the same as those we live
under today, and the same can be said of the hopes and values
it expresses: courage, defiance, pride. But there will come
a time, which I won't live to see, when narrow Polish problems
have been brushed aside, replaced by harmony and peace over
our entire planet, and I expect that our children or our
children's children will then be able to sing another, more
positive song. Until that time we have work to do.
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