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Walesa to speak at Stanford May 31

STANFORD -- Nobel laureate Lech Walesa, the founder of Solidarity and Poland's president from 1990 to 1995, will speak at noon Friday, May 31, in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on the Stanford campus.

The speech is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Center for Russian and East European Studies, the Institute for International Studies, Stanford in Government and the Hoover Institution.

Walesa, considered by many to be the father of the populist movement that toppled Communism in Eastern Europe, is currently on a speaking tour of the United States and Great Britain. The title of his Stanford address will be "The Present and Future of Democracy in Poland."

The movement that Walesa started was one of the first major steps in bringing down Communism in Poland, which happened in 1989, and it helped sparked democratization movements in other Soviet bloc countries.

In 1967, Walesa went to work as an electrician at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. In 1970, workers rioted against high food prices, and many demonstrators were gunned down by government troops.

On Aug. 14, 1980, Walesa and other workers initiated a strike that turned into a massive protest against the Communist government in Poland. On Aug. 31, 1980, the government agreed to permit formation of an independent union, the first to be allowed in any Soviet bloc country.

In December 1981, the government attempted to crush the union, imposing martial law. Solidarity was outlawed and most of its leaders arrested. Walesa was detained for nearly a year. When he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, his wife accepted in Oslo so that Walesa would not be involuntarily exiled.

Walesa served as the leader of Solidarity until 1989, fighting for democracy in Poland. He was elected president of the Polish Republic in 1990, succeeding Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.

Walesa narrowly lost his 1995 re-election bid, falling to former Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski. After the loss, Walesa said he would continue to campaign against the new Communists, with an eye on the parliamentary elections scheduled for 1997.

For more information, call the Center for Russian and East European Studies at (415) 725-2563.



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