The Freedom Collection of the George W. Bush Institute, Dallas, TX, is a permanent archive of the struggle for human freedom and democracy around the world. Established by President Bush on November 12, 2009, the Freedom Collection works to extend the reach of human liberty around the world by promoting democracy, political freedom, and individual rights.

The Freedom Collection pursues the principles of human liberty by documenting the personal stories of men and women who have led or participated in freedom movements. Using video interviews, collected papers and other materials, the Collection strives to inspire and provide insight to the current generation of freedom advocates, and expands access to information and successful strategies for change. The Freedom Collection reinforces the moral and practical importance of supporting pro-democracy movements and remaining actively engaged in the world. It also preserves history as a tool for scholars, policy makers and students studying democratic movements.

Those who change the course of human events are not always what we expect. Poland’s Lech Walesa, new in June 2013 on the Freedom Collection, is one such example. His unlikely origins as the face of Poland’s freedom movement are part of what makes his story inspirational. Starting as an electrician in a Baltic shipyard, Walesa led the movement that toppled communism in Poland and won the presidency of his country.

Walesa was born on September 29, 1943, in Popowo, Poland. He was a principal organizer of the Lenin Shipyard Strike in August 1980 and as spokesman for the workers, he quickly became the labor movement’s public face. Walesa’s negotiations with communist authorities and support of workers’ rights inspired Poles and resulted in the establishment of the Solidarity trade union, the first independent labor union in the communist world.

Solidarity soon expanded its reach beyond labor issues and became the hub for the country’s opposition activity, uniting democratic forces across Poland. After martial law was declared on December 13, 1981, Solidarity was outlawed and Walesa was among the first to be arrested and imprisoned.

While in office as president of Poland, Walesa was a driving force in Poland’s European integration, laying the groundwork for Poland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.


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