Lech Walesa, ex-President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, gave a resounding speech at the MEDEF Universite d’Ete 2009. Walesa retraced the history behind the Solidarnosc movement he led in Poland and then presented his case for progressing the European cause. Here are a few sound bytes (translated from the Polish into French and again into English by me).
Walesa spoke about the extraordinarily peaceful times we live in, saying that “no generation has ever had as great a period of peace and we have a great chance to make a unified Europe, without the use of force.”
–Commentary: Of course, the ‘peaceful era’ doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case for the Americans.
He continued by asking whether today’s generation will be capable of taking advantage of this worldwide truce? Walesa called for more action to create a unified Europe. “I believe that this generation, via democratic debate, will understand what is missing… what is needed…”
“If the individual’s wishes continue to be privileged, we cannot do much … we will continue to have the crises…. such as the economic crisis we are experiencing today” — meaning that there needs to be more solidarity…
“I am just a revolutionary, and I don’t have all the answers…” including to the question “what economy, what economic system is needed for a unified Europe?” A second question: “Which Democracy, which liberty [for Europe]?”
“If I could tell my [dead] father that there are no frontiers in Europe and that there are no soldiers between Germany & Poland, he’d have a heart attack.”
“I’d like to be the world’s last revolutionary. I would like to have lots of monuments, but with due reason because I would have succeeded and you would have succeeded…” i.e. that there would be no more need to revolt.
I enjoyed his speech and his passion. I also believe that the questions he raised for Europe and the clear risks that are poised in not unifying Europe are indeed critical for today’s generation. Of course, on a few other points, I considered his thoughts unlikely to gain traction (especially that the way to avoid all crises lies in finding solutions to create general solidarity…). Nonetheless, if he’s not the most appreciated person in Poland, he certainly gathered a few [more] fans in France with this speech.
"Revolutionary" was unexpected but right and well chosen. Maybe that's what we need right now: revolutionary thinkers.
As for solidarity, I suspect he is right: crises are due to moral hazard and moral hazard is due to a lack of solidarity. (More precisely the social fabric isn't strong enough to withstand a shock.)
I agree with you, Christophe, that we need some 'revolutionary' thinking…. And the role of the younger generations in "making things happen" will be vital even before they 'come of age' to assume the mantel of power.
I read an interesting editorial by Thomas Friedman lauding the benefits of a one-party autocracy (China) compared to the difficulties fraught with bringing about change in a "one-party democracy" (Friedman's term) i.e. in the US…
I would argue that some crises are merely part of a larger natural cycle. Nonetheless, the challenge is getting the solidarity to stick in a Europe that remains so divided on many issues…