Lech Walesa on Why Democracy Is Failing: ‘There Is No Leadership’
The legendary Polish union leader who helped end the Cold War says the United States and other nations have not done enough to create a new global system of democratic values.
Lech Walesa, the legendary Polish Solidarity leader who played a central role in dismantling Soviet communism toward the end of the Cold War, is in Washington this week to mark the 30th anniversary of his landmark speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Nov. 15, 1989, a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In words that now seem bitingly quaint, Walesa, the self-described “shipyard worker from Gdansk” who went on to become a Nobel prize winner and president of Poland, called Congress “a beacon of freedom and a bulwark of human rights” at the time. “The people of Poland link the name of the United States with freedom and democracy, with generosity and high-mindedness,” he said. Today, at 76, Walesa is white-haired, and his famous mustache is trimmer, but he is constantly seen wearing shirts emblazoned with the word “constitution,” and he exudes the same passions. Only now Walesa wonders what happened to the United States of America he once so admired. Walesa spoke with Foreign Policy on Thursday. An edited version of the conversation follows.
Michael Hirsh is a columnist for Foreign Policy. He is the author of two books: Capital Offense: How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street and At War With Ourselves: Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World. Twitter: @michaelphirsh
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