Polish political leader Lech Walesa (1943-) was born on this day in Popowo, north of Warsaw, the son of peasant farmers. He attended trade school and worked as a shipyard electrician where he became a union activist.
"Everyone wants a voice in human freedom. There's a fire burning inside all of us," he once said.
In 1980, the charismatic Walesa founded Solidarity, an organization of 50 Polish trade unions, that became the first independent, autonomous union in the Communist world. Within months, the movement faced government opposition which eventualy led to martial law and Walesa's brief imprisonment. In 1982, Poland outlawed Solidarity.
"Power is only important as an instrument for service to the powerless," he said and continued to work for individualism and freedom. "Words are plentiful, but deeds are precious," he said.
Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for working for human rights through negotiation and peace. He dedicated the award to the 10 million members of the outlawed Solidarity movement. "We crave for justice, and that is why we are so persistent in the struggle for our right," he said.
Solidarity was once again recognized in 1989; Walesa's commitment helped end communism in Eastern Europe. The passionately patriotic leader was elected president of his country in 1990 and served until 1995.
About freedom, he said, "Freedom may be the soul of humanity, but often you have to struggle to prove it."
A historical hero and inspiration to the power of mankind, Walesa once explained, "Each of us individually does not count much. But together we are the strength of the millions who constitute Solidarity."
Life is like walking a tightrope: Balance!