World leader speaks at Durham University
(12 May 2008)
One of the best known and most influential world leaders of the 20th Century chose Durham University as the venue for his solo talk in England.
Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, spoke to a gathering at Durham University last Thursday [May 8] at the invitation of the region’s leading business organisation the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC). Mr Walesa co-founded the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union, the Solidarity movement, that brought Poland out of communism. An awe-inspiring speaker, he ignited the passion of workers across the country for independence away from straight-jacketed working practices. The Gdansk shipyard electrician was one of the most mobilising leaders the world has encountered and his push to improve the rights of his fellow countrymen won the backing of the Catholic Church and earned him an audience with Pope John Paul II. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. Mr Walesa was elected the first democratic President of the Republic of Poland in December 1990, a post he held until November 1995. Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, commented: “Lech Walesa is one of the world’s most admirable and inspiring leaders. We were particularly pleased to welcome him to Durham University as he embodies many of the personal and professional qualities we aim to instill through our education here, such as determination, courage, self-belief, and a strong will to build a better future for his country.” Richard Bottomley, NECC president, said: “This was an incredible opportunity to hear directly from one of the world’s greatest leaders of all time. Mr Walesa not only transformed Poland, he had a profound impact globally. We were privileged to have him speaking here in Durham. “Poland is one of the fastest growing international economies and Lech Walesa is synonymous with its success.” The event was supported by regional development agency One NorthEast and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as well as Durham University.