Date: December 7, 1998
Contact: Stephen Collins
Lech Walesa, the shipyard electrician who led the Solidarity labor movement that overturned Communist rule in Poland and who became the country's first democratically elected president, will speak at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, on Monday, December 7. The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Page Commons Room in Cotter Union. It is open to the public free of charge.
Walesa burst into the world spotlight in 1980 when he climbed atop a bulldozer at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, and rallied dispirited workers there. His leadership inspired a nationwide uprising that grew to include 10 million workers and emboldened freedom movements throughout Eastern Europe.
In the year and a half following the Gdansk protest, relations between the Communists and Solidarity deteriorated. At the end of 1981 the government declared martial law and arrested Solidarity leaders, including Walesa. In the fall of 1982 Solidarity was outlawed. Walesa was released from prison and continued to lead the underground organization. After five years of unrest, the government acknowledged it could no longer control the country and again recognized Solidarity.
Walesa became the first democratically elected president of Poland on December 9, 1990, winning more than 74 percent of the vote. He was named "man of the year" by publications around the world in 1980 and, as a celebrated international symbol of hope and freedom, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. Now retired from politics, he heads the Lech Walesa Institute, whose aim is to advance the ideals of democracy and free market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.
Walesa will speak through an interpreter at Colby.