Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) met last week with Polish hero and international statesman Lech Walesa at the Washington, D.C. opening of “Man of Hope,” the movie chronicling his incredible rise from an electrician in the Gdansk shipyards and leader of the movement that felled Soviet communism to the first democratically elected president of post-communist Poland. Rep. Lipinski is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Poland and represents nearly 100,000 Polish-Americans in Congress, one the highest numbers for any congressional district.
“Lech Walesa will always be one of my personal heroes for his spirit and tenacity in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” Rep. Lipinski said. “He is one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time, whose strong Catholic faith and devotion to personal liberty were central to the end of the Cold War. Lech Walesa is the embodiment of the tremendous feats just one man can accomplish. His story deserves to be told time and time again.”
Under Walesa’s leadership, Poland’s first independent trade union, Solidarity, demanded free elections and bravely called for the end of the county’s Soviet-backed communist government. In 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. In a historic speech before a joint session of Congress in 1989, he famously evoked the U.S. Constitution by starting his address with the words, “We the people.” Following communism’s collapse, Walesa was elected president of the Republic of Poland in 1990, serving for five years.
A monument to Walesa and the Solidarity movement stands in Rep. Lipinski’s’ district at the intersection of Archer Avenue and 55th Street in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge community. In Congress, Rep. Lipinski has been a leader in the push to admit Poland to the Visa Waiver Program so Polish citizens won’t have to go through the difficult process of obtaining a visa in order to visit the United States for weddings, baptisms, and other family events.