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Nobel Prize-winner Lech Walesa to speak

February 12, 2001


Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Poland, will address graduating seniors and their families, Sunday, May 6, at10 a.m., in Pamplin Sports Center.

“One of the dominant figures of European history during the past two decades, Lech Walesa is celebrated universally for his contributions to freedom and democracy,” states Michael Mooney, president of Lewis & Clark College. “We are honored to welcome him as our commencement speaker for 2001.”

Walesa burst into the world spotlight during the Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980. The strike became a social revolution and was christened Solidarity. Walesa convinced the communist government to legally recognize it.

For his efforts, Walesa was named Man of the Year by Time magazine, The Financial Times, The London Observer, Die Welt, Die Zeit, L’Express and Le Soir.

However, during the 18 months that followed, relations between Solidarity and the government deteriorated. In 1981, the Polish government declared martial law and arrested thousands of Solidarity members, including Walesa. It outlawed Solidarity in 1982.

The government released Walesa from prison that fall. Solidarity continued as an underground organization until the Polish government legalized it once again and invited it to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government. Solidarity won almost every contest in the resulting election.

Walesa, who was celebrated as a symbol of hope and freedom by his people, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and became Poland’s first democratically elected president in 1990. As president, he set Poland firmly on the path to becoming a free-market democracy and a model of economic and political reform. Walesa now devotes his time to advancing democracy and free-market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.

Seating in Pamplin Sports Center is limited; graduating seniors and their guests will receive first priority for the required tickets. If weather permits, the College will move the ceremony to Griswold Stadium.

Sen. Gordon Smith will address law school graduates. Author and education advocate Lisbeth Schorr will speak at the graduate school’s commencement.

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