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April 6: Lech Wałęsa -- Cześć!

A talk by Lech Wałęsa, one of the great giant-killers of the 20th century

When: Thursday, April 6, 2006 7:00 p.m.

Where: Purdue University Fowler Hall, Stewart Center

Lech Wałęsa burst into the world spotlight in 1980 during the infamous Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland. Incensed by an increase in prices set by the Communist government, workers demanded the right to organize free and independent trade unions.

Wałęsa, an electrician who had long been active in the underground labor movement, arrived at the barricaded shipyard just as the dispirited workers were on the verge of abandoning their strike. Scaling the shipyard walls, he delivered a stirring speech from atop a bulldozer. Revitalized by his passion, the strike spread to factories across the nation. Christened "Solidarity," the strike became a social revolution, with Walesa its leader.

Celebrated worldwide as a symbol of the hope for freedom, Wałęsa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. Acknowledging that it could no longer control the country, the government invited Solidarity to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government. In the resulting election, Solidarity won almost every contest.

Having ended Communist rule and planted the seeds of freedom and democracy in his beloved country, Wałęsa was ready to take on a new role to serve Poland. In 1990, he became its first democratically elected president, setting Poland firmly on the path to becoming a free market democracy.

Through his unwavering commitment, Wałęsa made Poland a model of economic and political reform for the rest of Easter Europe to follow and earned it the honor of receiving one of the first invitations to join an expanded NATO. He now heads the Lech Wałęsa Institute, which aims to advance the ideals of democracy and free market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.

That is the official announcement by Purdue's Krannert School of Management, which is sponsoring Wałęsa's talk as part of the Purdue Series on Corporate Citizenship and Ethics. For a very different and personal perspective on Lech Wałęsa, see The Next Indy.

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