The war in Ukraine is forcing the world to make a choice between democracy or totalitarianism. That was the message from former Polish president Lech Wałęsa as he addressed an audience in the Rackham Amphitheater.
Wałęsa came to the world’s attention as the leader of the Solidarity movement in 1980 and pressed for democratic change. For his efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and in 1990 became the first democratically-elected president of Poland since 1926.
The war in Ukraine was a symptom of a bad political system in Russia, he said. The world needs to unite around the Ukrainian people, he urged. “We have to help (Ukrainians) so they survive.”
He said the U.S. had a unique role.
“Somebody has to lead. I would like to encourage you, to plead with you, to lead… Please realize that you’re responsible for the whole world. That this is your fate. This is your God-given role: to lead the world,” he said.
The event was hosted by the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE) in conjunction with the Copernicus Center for Polish Studies, Ford School of Public Policy, Democracy and Debate, and the Weiser Diplomacy Center.
The full video can be seen here.