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Pat Miller, Lectures, (515) 294-9935
Steve Sullivan, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- Lech Walesa, the Polish electrician who led a revolution and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, will speak at Iowa State University on Monday, Oct. 15.

Walesa will speak on "Leadership, Democracy and Freedom" at 8 p.m. in Stephens Auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.

Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, became Poland's first democratically elected president in 1990.

He began his career as an electrician active in the underground labor movement in the Gdansk shipyard where he headed the striking, outlawed union "Solidarity." In addition to many other honors, he was named Man of the Year by "Time" magazine and several European publications.

Walesa burst into the world spotlight in 1980 during the Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk. Workers, incensed by the Communist government, demanded the right to organize. At a low point in the strike, Walesa scaled the shipyard walls and revitalized workers with a stirring speech. The strike spread to factories across Poland, forcing the government to negotiate with Walesa and ultimately grant legal recognition to Solidarity.

Relations between Solidarity and the government became progressively worse. On Dec. 31, 1981, the Polish government declared martial law. It suspended the activities of all unions and arrested thousands of Solidarity members, including Walesa. In the fall of 1982, the government officially outlawed Solidarity.

Walesa was released that same fall. Under his leadership, Solidarity continued to exist as an underground organization. After five years of increasing labor unrest, the government re-legalized Solidarity and invited it to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government. In the resulting election, Solidarity won almost every contest.

Walesa now heads the Lech Walesa Institute, which strives to advance democracy and free market reform throughout the world.


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