Resources for Teachers and Students on Lech Walesa
Prepare: Lech Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize because
of his efforts organizing the Solidarity (Solidarnosc) trade
union in then-communist Poland. He went on to win the country's
presidency, which he held from 1990 to 1995, during which
time he was instrumental in Poland's transition into a democracy.
can be found on the Nobel site.
Lech Walesa's Architects
of Peace essay is excerpted from his 1987 autobiography,
A Way of Hope. In it, he describes a vision of humanity
evolving beyond a point where war is seen as a way to settle
Explore: After losing the presidential election
in 1995, Walesa went on to found the Lech
Walesa Institute, the mission of which is to consolidate
democracy and foster a free-market economy in Poland.
Write: During his Nobel lecture, Lech Walesa stated,
"My most ardent desire is that my country will recapture
its historic opportunity for a peaceful evolution and that
Poland will prove to the world that even the most complex
situations can be solved by a dialogue and not by force."
This is precisely what happened seven years later: Poland
freed itself from communist domination without needing to
resort to arms or violence. Was this a quirk of history,
or could the Polish model be applied elsewhere? After researching
the historical factors surrounding this remarkable event,
write a three-to-five page historical analysis as to how
and why the Polish situation was solved "by dialogue
and not by force."
Extend: The United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, maintains a "Memories
of the World" archive which contains such important
documents as the original score for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
According to the archivist, one of the most important documents
of the 20th century is the "Twenty
One Demands" that Walesa presented to Communist
authorities during the historic strike at the Gdansk shipyard
in August of 1980.
Additional Resource: Not only is the Solidarity
trade union still going strong, but it maintains
an English version of its website. Those wanting to examine
the issues currently of interest to union members can do
so on this site.
Biography of Lech