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A Man of the People Speaks

LECH WALESA, the man who rose from electrician to labor leader to the first democratically elected president of Poland, spoke to a crowd of more than 1,100 in McCarthy Quad on Oct. 8, in the USC President’s Distinguished Lecture Series.
Walesa was introduced by President Steven B. Sample. “The life of Lech Walesa reflects an epic struggle and a monumental character,” said Sample. “Those of us who witnessed those dramatic events will never forget the image of the charismatic man from Gdansk who appeared on workers’ posters with raised fists and the word ‘Solidarnosc’ scrawled in red, demanding better living and working conditions. Through Solidarity he galvanized and inspired an entire nation.”
Walesa, speaking in Polish with an English interpreter, went on to charm the audience as he addressed subjects both serious and amusing.
He spoke on the challenge of globalization, cautioned wise people to get involved rather than to stay on the margins, said the world used to develop “evenly in the old era” but now it’s become lop-sided, and that America as the only super power had an obligation to help others.
“If the one who has everything doesn’t share, the first will die of overeating and the other will starve,” he said.
And it is now “the era of air,” said Walesa, since the Internet is playing a huge part in globalization. “Once it was about land – now it’s about information,” he said.
Solidarity proved that “the impossible was possible,” said Walesa. “We should all call ourselves human beings. Just that.”
Walesa has been honored throughout the world for the part he’s played in social change. “If I put on all my medals,” he said with a grin, “you would need a crane to lift me up.” Audience members who understood Polish got Walesa’s clever remarks a half-beat before those who had to wait for the English translation.

A Man of the People Speaks

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