Office of the House Clerk


Lech Walesa's visit to the Connecticut State Capitol: 
April 10, 1996

Photo of Lech Walesa

"Wednesday afternoon, as Walesa walked through the halls of the Capitol, crowds that had gathered along his route, broke out in spontaneous applause. He received two standing ovations from an overflow crowd of legislators & State officials at the Hall of the House." - Hartford Courant, April 11, 1996

Lech Walesa, the pioneer of democracy in Poland, addressed the Joint Convention of the General Assembly in 1996. We remember that great occasion in celebration of Poland's entry into NATO.

President Walesa was born in 1943 in Popowo, Poland. He trained as an electrician and began work at the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk in 1966. He was imprisoned in 1981 for his union activities and received the Nobel Prize in1983. He was elected president of the Republic of Poland in 1990. He married in 1969 and has seven children.

President Walesa led Poland during one of the most difficult periods in its history. The Soviet Union had just collapsed and along with it, 50 years of oppressive rule in Eastern Europe. The transition to freedom was difficult to implement since the citizens of these nations had become dependant on a State system that controlled every aspect of their lives. People were slaves to government because of the corrupt economic and political system. The very opposite of what Marx had intended, servitude, had been achieved.

After communism left Poland, people starved. Conditions in the short-term were worse than under the totalitarian regime. This was the challenge that leaders like Walesa faced:

" He has been called a Patriot, freedom fighter, a man of unparalleled principle and determination……… Lech Walesa is nothing short of a living legend."
-Governor John Rowland

"I would like to tell you that I felt the Solidarity which was emanating from Connecticut during our difficult years and that is why I was able to be a hero."

"We need to enter NATO……… what we are hoping to do is to set up a common system of safety and in an evolutionary way, by making one block larger that cuts off the possibility of another block surging up."

"I would like to request, please do not let our success, our victory go to waste…………. Many armies have returned home. There are thousands of soldiers that have returned to Russia without a shot being fired. There have been no [military] destructions, but we have to think of the future. I believe in a peaceful evolution and I believe in a second victory. It is not as spectacular as the first, because it means work and building and sacrifice, but this is the fate that we have for today…"

President Lech Walesa of Poland
Speech in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
April 10, 1996


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