Dear Friends…Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am so sorry I cannot be with you on the unveiling of this special sculpture – special not only for whom it depicts, but also because this event is taking place in the cradle of “Solidarity,” a national liberation movement that was crucial in bringing freedom to Poland.
When I first heard that the good citizens of Tri-City (Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Sopot) had plans to erect a statue of John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, strolling, I thought, “what an honor and privilege to have my Dad associated with the person he admired most in the world: The Polish Pope.”
I have been kept abreast of various initiatives to honor my father in Poland. In particular: a traffic circle in Tarnów, a square in Nowa Huta, a large bust in Warsaw, and so forth. It is clear that the Polish people remember!
You remember the role my father, President Reagan, played in the ending of the Soviet Union and the end of the Iron Curtain. You remember how much President Reagan was moved by Solidarity and the brave Poles that stood along side each other in your fight for freedom and liberty. Most of all, you remember that under my father’s presidency, your freedom meant a great deal to all Americans.
As we all know, after going through the horrors of World War II, the Communists attempted to rob the Polish people of their memories, including memories of the most recent events. The totalitarians wanted to obliterate history so they could control a people devoid of identity. Now, the post-Communists and various moral relativists have endeavored to bury the past as, allegedly, “irrelevant.” But the Poles, you good citizens of Gdańsk, have chosen to remember and to commemorate the efforts of two people who did everything in their power to overthrow Communism and to create the conditions in which “Solidarity” ultimately prevailed over the “Evil Empire.”
The fight of “Solidarity” was the continuation of Poland’s struggle for independence that commenced against the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in 1939. “Solidarity” people are heirs to the wartime Home Army and post-war anti-communist insurgents. They finally succeeded in 1989, after a long, protracted insurrection. The Poles won their freedom. Now they have to fight to keep it.
One of the most important weapons in the arsenal of the struggle for freedom is memory. The individuals who transcend the hustle and bustle of everyday life in order to remember are another. Their vision is not just of the past to be honored; it is of the future. Only firmly anchored in the past do we know who we are in the present to be able to boldly march toward the future.
Poland is lucky to have a contingent of people who understand the synergy between the past, present, and the future. I would like to thank in particular three individuals responsible for seeing this project through: respectively, chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary of Foundation “Dignity” (Godnosc), Czesław Nowak, Andrzej Osipów, and Stanisław Fudakowski. I would further like to recognize Professor Szczepan Baum, Ryszard Gruda, Andrzej Michalowski, and Mieczyslaw Wedrowski. Furthermore, I would like to acknowledge with gratitude that the funding came from Poland’s main credit union SKOK and its chairman Grzegorz Bierecki. Lastly, I would like to thank Gdańsk’s mayor, Paweł Adamowicz for continuing to remember, and continuing the fight for the freedom of the Polish people.
Thank you all very, very much. I look forward to visiting Gdansk very soon.