Polish icon, new UST Honorary Professor
“I was a revolutionary and I am. I want to be the last revolutionary and have many statues. And it is up to you if I will be successful there.”
Former President of Poland Lech Walesa said, challenging the youth to act for a true democracy, in his lecture “Role of Faith on the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy” after his conferment of the title Honorary Professor by the University of Santo Tomas last November 27.
The title was conferred by Rector Magnificus Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P. for his exceptional recognition as a leader of the nationwide social movement of Solidarnosc (Solidarity), which was responsible for bringing down the communist regime in Poland.
Walesa received the diploma and professor’s medallion from Fr. Dagohoy, inside the Medicine Auditorium, while Secretary General Fr. Winston Cabading O.P. read the citation.
“You directed the transformation of Solidarity from a free and independent trade union to the first major opposition party to offer Polish voters an alternative to communism accelerating the process of political change in Poland. You are a man of people who has always regarded the Catholic faith as a source of strength and inspiration, and the courage and the moral vision of a hero of Polish independence and a symbolic figure that influenced political changes in Eastern Europe and the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.”
In his lecture, the 69-year-old gave emphasis to the power of the youth that can change a country’s political system to a true democracy, appealing to the youth to ‘teach’ the adults.
“Every politician who wants to be a politician has to agree to have a chip on him and all his movements must be written there. If he didn’t write, if we cannot check him, his family cannot be a politician for the next 50 years… You, youth, prepare such program for us,” he said.
Walesa also stressed on the importance of faith and the role of the Catholic Church in his fight with Communism to freedom and democracy.
“We didn’t know how to put everything in the right place. And intellectually, we can’t match the intellect of the Church. Poland will not be free without the Church.”
Walesa, advocate of non-violent human rights activism against the communist regime, has won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize. As a president for five years from 1990, he led his country’s transformation from a communist to a democratic republic with esteem to the Catholic faith.
“Let us build future on values and solidarity and I hope no one will say it’s impossible. It is not overnight. I lost my battles but I won my war.”
Walesa was the second head of state to be conferred as an honorary professor by the University this year, after former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last June.
Like Cory Aquino
Walesa, as characterized by the Poland Ambassador to the Philippines Adam Jelonek, is like the country’s former President Corazon Aquino who restored democracy during the first EDSA People Power revolution.
“Like Cory Aquino, he was a symbol for better future, justice, and freedom. He is the person who gave us freedom, the person with the purest incarnation of Polishness,” Jelonek said.
In 1980, Walesa led Gdansk shipyard strike which gave rise to a wave of strikes over much of Poland which succeeded and forced the authorities to give the workers the right to organize their own independent union.
With the support from the Catholic Church, Walesa and the Solidarity Movement was cordially received by Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in 1982.
By Romhelyn M. Benipayo
Photo taken by Paulo Angelo Juan