Lech Wałęsa

Freedom is a task

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History is happening before our eyes, dynamically and sometimes with our participation. With our eyes fixed on today and tomorrow, we rarely look back. We should, however, stop for a moment, as history offers important conclusions and experience. The last 25 years have been an instructive process of building democracy and developing freedom.

It is a good lesson for us, but also for those who have not yet entered the path of freedom. Maybe they are already standing at the threshold or are just starting to think about it. Let us look again at these years, successes, joys, but also errors. What can we clearly see from these 25 years, which after all are the result of the previous few dozen? For a long time now I have been repeating that we gained freedom step by step, because only such a method could give us victory. Taught by experience – as we have learned from history – we wanted to change Poland peacefully, in dialogue and in steps. The building blocks of our freedom, their origins in the first Polish anti-communist uprisings, were added every year and every decade. Without them, there would be no 1989, which also had to be broken down into stages. The Round Table Agreements – historical, yet still flawed, the successful June elections – a victory, but still incomplete freedom and a crawling democracy. Finally, the key to the whole process of political transformation, the coalition agreement ZSL-SD-“Solidarity” and its result, the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Then, the first fully democratic general elections – of the President of the Republic of Poland. We have finally recovered full freedom and the right to self-determination. But it was not only a right but a task; because freedom is primarily a task.

Therefore, already under different conditions and at a different pace, but still in stages, step by step, we have built a free, democratic, free-market state. There was no shortage of important milestones, as evidenced in these pages through the speeches and events referred to, which also deliver crucial lessons. They remind us that we managed to identify the most important issues and strategic directions across internal divisions, to make key decisions and in the end, better or worse, effectively implement them. This was our way to the North Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. There was a certain maturity in this generation of the time of change, to not undermine the fundamental issues. Today, it is much more difficult, but there are other considerations. We have had a time of revolution, laid the foundations for modern statehood, and launched democracy. Today, you need daily work, not spectacular surges. Our freedom in its 25th year is mature and stable, but it still requires effort, dialogue, and cooperation across party lines on key issues. I believe that we can still afford such thinking and action. History has yet to ask, what did you do with your freedom? How did you use the chance? May we always, as we do today, after 25 years, be able to confidently answer that we made good use of history and the lessons learned, and that we made good use of our freedom.

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