Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of Poland

Poland in a Changing World

September 15, 2005 05:00 PM


by President Lee C. Bollinger

Lee Bollinger: Today it is my great pleasure to welcome the President of Poland
to Columbia University. This week, heads of State from around the world are
here in New York City for the United Nations 2005 World Summit, the largest
gathering of world leaders in history. We at Columbia are delighted to welcome
several of these leaders to our campus. In joining us here at the start of the 60th
session of the United Nations, they remind us of just how intra-dependent our
world has become. In this age of globalization, the security of a single nation, we
know very well, affects the security of all nations. And the fate of national
economies influences markets around the globe.

No one knows this better than President Kwa_niewski and the people of Poland.
In the 1980's the grassroots movement called Solidarity which began among
Polish shipyard workers helped start a chain reaction that ended communist rule
in Europe. In the past decade Poland has moved out of the shadows of the Cold
War and into the center of world affairs—economically, militarily, diplomatically,
under the leadership of our guest today. Mr. President, during the ten years of
your presidency, Poland has taken remarkable strides towards democracy and
prosperity. In 1996, just five years after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact,
Poland joined the Council of Europe, then NATO in 1999, and the European
Union in 2004.

Today, with one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, Poland is often
viewed as a model of how a country can successfully evolve from communism to
a thriving democracy with a market economy. Additionally, Mr. President, you
are now recognized in the world for your efforts to promote democratic
government and cooperation in Europe, due to your strong support for the
enlargement of NATO and the EU and your mediation last year during the
Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Mr. President, we are honored to have you here
today. Not just because it is a privilege to welcome a guest of such global
influence but also because your presence here is central to the work that we do
at Columbia on behalf of our students and our city, the nation and the world.

We at Columbia are a private university with a public purpose with a deeply felt
responsibility to grapple with the problems and hopes of our age, to face the
challenges of the modern form of globalization, and to help spread its benefits.
Columbia University, with one of the largest populations of international students
of any university in the United States, with many of the foremost experts on
regions of the world, in perhaps the most diverse city in the world, Columbia itself
aims to be an example of the broader world we are fast becoming.

Several years ago during the first terms of his presidency, I and my wife Jean
had the opportunity to meet the President when he spoke at the University of
Michigan on the tenth anniversary of the Round Table negotiations, the 1989
meeting between the communist and the opposition groups that led to Poland's
first reelections and, more quickly than anyone anticipated, the collapse of the
Soviet Block. The President's memories of participating in those talks riveted
and inspired everyone present, so I am particularly pleased to welcome him
back, or welcome him here today. As his historic Presidency nears its end,
consider the future of Poland, Europe, and the world. Thank you.

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