CULLOWHEE – The United States’ efforts to defeat terrorism around the globe is the third world war, and it is “a war of intellect over madness,” former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa told a crowd at Western Carolina University Monday (Nov. 5.)
“It’s a third world war we’re in now,” Walesa said, speaking through an interpreter. “But, of course, it cannot resemble war in the traditional terms that we are used to. This is a war against progress and life, and the other side represents opposition to progress.”
Walesa spoke before a crowd of about 1,500 at WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center. He burst into the world spotlight in the 1980s as leader of the 10 million-member Solidarity Labor Movement in Poland. The movement, which was transformed into a social revolution, prevailed to see the end of communist rule in Poland, despite a crackdown of martial law and the repeated imprisonment of its leaders.
Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and in 1990 became the first democratically elected president of Poland. His term of office set the nation on the path to becoming a free market democracy. Now retired from politics, he heads the Lech Walesa Institute, an organization designed to advance democracy and free market reform throughout the world.
Walesa visited WCU as part of the university’s Chancellor’s Speaker Series. He spoke on “Democracy: The Never-Ending Battle.”
When Solidarity defeated communism, Walesa told the crowd, there were 250,000 Soviet soldiers in Polish territory, another million Soviet troops in neighboring countries, and “nuclear missiles all around, and none of the great politicians around the world believed we could be successful against communism.
“However, with Solidarity, we defeated that system, which had murdered more than 100 million people around the world, and in our struggle not a single shot was fired, and if any shots were heard, they were champagne corks popping,” Walesa said.
“In this war – the war for people, progress and life – we must win in the same way. This is a war of intellect over madness.”
Walesa said the future of the world lies in the global economy, which will end the struggles of the last century, but there are three issues that must be resolved for economic globalization to occur: border conflicts and potential border conflicts; anti-Semitism, racism and ethnic cleansing; and terrorism.
In a globalized world, “all the countries will resemble colorful building blocks, and the only condition will be that the blocks maintain their standardized dimensions – dimensions like human rights, freedoms, democracy, free market economy,” he said.
“So many tears and so much sweat has gone into American soil,” Walesa said. “Your power (the United States) has been created from the best sons and daughters of the world. We are lucky to be living in this era. That’s why we must do everything we can not to waste the great opportunity we are facing. We must not let the situation continue with the United States doing all the dirty work for the rest of the world.”
Before his presentation at the Ramsey Center, Walesa met with a group of about 300 in a students-only session at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.
Among the WCU students who had an opportunity to meet Walesa was Filip Kidon, a 20-year-old business major whose father opposed the Soviets in Poland along with Walesa. Kidon’s family fled from Poland to Australia after his father, who had already been jailed periodically, was threatened by the communists with five years of jail time.
Kidon and his family have visited Poland several times since the fall of communism. After graduation, he plans to return to Australia to work in business.
Walesa is the second of three speakers on the schedule for the 2001-02 Chancellor’s Speaker Series. Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders will visit the campus Feb. 7.