April 2010, Volume 14, Number 2


Nobel Laureate Lech Walesa

Nobel Laureate Lech Walesa visits college

The future of Cuba is up to us, former Polish President and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa recently told community leaders and Miami Dade College students gathered at the College’s Freedom Tower, a building designated a National Historic Landmark.

“To understand how to build this new future, we have to analyze our past,” he said through an interpreter during a luncheon sponsored by the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF).

It was the second visit to the College in four years for Walesa, one of the instrumental figures in helping to bring about the downfall of Soviet communism in Eastern Europe.  He has been working with CANF on how lessons from his movement can best be applied to support the work of civil society groups in Cuba.

In analyzing his past, he told them of the time before he founded the Solidarity movement and led a nonviolent revolt against his country’s communist system. At the time, he said, an end to communism seemed almost impossible.

“No one was giving us the opportunity to finish communism,” he said of the world leaders of the 70s and 80s. “But, as for Poland, we believed that there was another chance.”
His belief now is that the current generation has the best chance to bring about change in the world.

“His speech was inspiring,” said Renato Vigil, a Wolfson Campus student. “He is an amazing man in terms of his involvement in human rights movements, not only in Poland and Cuba, but all around the world.”

During the luncheon, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado presented Walesa with the keys to the city and explained how thousands of Cuban exiles escaping communism had passed through the Freedom Tower during its time as a temporary office for Immigration and Naturalization Services. The exiles’ INS paperwork was processed on site. They also received guidance and assistance from social services.

“It was the perfect setting for Walesa’s speech, not only because of its aesthetics but because of its historical purposes,” Vigil said. “It is a symbol of hope for the Cuban people.”


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