Fulton, MO -- Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, presented the 49th John Findley Green Lecture at Westminster College on Thursday, April 2, in Champ Auditorium. Walesa is best known as leader of the Solidarity movement which led to a social and political revolution in Poland.
Two years ago, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher spoke to us about the fall of the 'Iron Curtain' and the end of Soviet hegemony in Europe," said Wesminster President Jim Traer. "With her address as a backdrop, it is particularly appropriate that we welcome to the Green Lecture podium one of the architects of the new Europe." Walesa, an electrician, burst onto the international stage in 1980 during the Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland. Speaking atop a bulldozer, Walesa rallied demoralized workers to continue to fight for reform. Revitalized by his passion, the strike spread to factories across the nation. The strikers christened the new movement "Solidarity."
Walesa's activities were supported by the Catholic Church. In January 1981 he was received by Pope John Paul II in Rome. Relationships with the Polish government, however, worsened. In December 1981 martial law was declared and Walesa was arrested. He spent a year in jail before returning to his job at the Gdansk shipyards in 1982. Under Walesa's leadership, the Solidarity movement defeated the Polish Communist party in 1989. Walesa became the first democratically-elected president of Poland in 1990.
Walesa joins an elite group of international leaders who have delivered the Green Lecture. Established in 1936, the John Findley Green Foundation provides for lectures designed to promote the understanding of economic and social problems of international concern. Previous speakers have included former United States presidents Harry Truman, George Bush and Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who spoke in 1992. The most recent Green lecture was delivered by former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1996--the 50th anniversary of the most famous Green Lecture by former British prime minister Winston Churchill in 1946. That lecture, titled "Sinews of Peace," spoke of the "Iron Curtain" and the growing influence of world communism.