posted on 09/15/2005 12:33:18 PM PDT
I don't remeber the visit of one the greatest American presidents myself exactly 15 years ago (I was only 12 at that time). He visited Gdansk - the place where it all stared for Poland, Reagan's and Poles glorious battlefield. He said then:
A little over 200 year ago, two Polish patriots helped us in America make our world anew. My country had just been born. Its guiding idea was that men and women could govern themselves, free of foreign domination or influence. A skeptical world said the experiment would fail, but that did not deter these two men who had already struggled against foreign domination here in Poland. Thus it was that a brillant engineer, Thaddeus Kosciusko, and a daring cavalry commander, Casimir Pulaski, joined the American War of Independence and performed heroic deeds. They were among those who made it possible for the fragile flower of democracy to survive and bloom in American soil. Now, thousands of patriots have been making the world anew once again. I am speaking of all of you here, the men and women of Solidarity who, in just 10 years since the founding of your movement, have brought about the end of communism's stifling embrace. You have restored Polish independence from outside influence. You have successfully led the struggle for free, open and democratic elections. You have paved the way for a market economy to replace the failed efforts of centralized planning and control. You have triggered vast changes in the political map of Central and Eastern Europe. One might say this is the shipyard that launched a half dozen revolutions! Today, Solidarity leads the Polish government and the people--and it all began here 10 years ago. Those 10 years brought hardship and heartache for most of you. To some it brought death. It brought obstacles and reversals. But you never lost hope. You stand as proof of the basic human truth that when men and women thirst for freedom and democracy, their thirst will not be quenched until their goal is achieved. You of Solidarity have now achieved it. But the goal of freedom and democracy was only the first goal to be achieved--a prelude to something even greater: the rejuvenation of your country. You began that process with a bold move on the first of January this year. You eliminated price controls and most subsidies. You replaced the old communist credit system with a monetary system. So far there are a number of positive results: You stopped inflation in its tracks and have rolled it back. Your stores are filled with goods today and there are no more long lines. The black market is a memory. Most important for your future foreign trade, you have created the first convertible currency in the former Communist Bloc of countries. With the bold economic moves you knew there would be some pain. We have a saying, `no pain, no gain.' Still, pain is pain if your buying power has declined or you are out of work. In the U.S. we believe stronging in people helping people. This time, it is our turn to help the new Poland. Here are a few examples: Since July, 29 containers of medical supplies from the U.S. Department of Defense stocks in Europe have been delivered to Polish hospitals, orphanages and old people's homes. The shipments were organized by a U.S. citizens' group, the Emergency Committee for Aid to Poland. Early this year, at the request of your Ministry of Labor, the same U.S. committee arranged for American corporations to contribute 50 tons of specialized infant formula. In June, 60 volunteers from the U.S. Peace Corps arrived to teach English. Soon, mid-level managers of Polish business enterprises will be able to learn the latest marketing and management practices at a special exchange program at New York University, organized by the Institute for East-West Business Dynamics, a non-profit U.S. group. In Cracow, Project Hope, the principal U.S. sponsor of the American Children's Hospital there, is nearing completion of a large ambulatory care center. In the course of its 16-year-old program here in Poland, Project Hope has sponsored visits by nearly 500 Polish medical professionals to the U.S. and visits to Poland by more than 1,600 of Hope's volunteer health-care specialists. And, for the past two years, Project Hope's health economists and policy analysts have worked closely with your Ministry of Health in developing plans for reform of the health-care delivery system. Just as long as help is wanted, Americans will be there to provide it. In the long run, however, it is you, the people of Poland, who will solve your economic problems through self-help. I have had a little experience in the matter of economic growth, so I hope you won't mind if I share with you some of what I've learned. First, there are two schools of thought about how to achieve lasting economic health and growth. One believes you get it only through severe austerity and belt-tightening. The other believes you achieve it by getting government out of the way so that the people themselves can create and find opportunities. I confess that I side with that second school of thought, the one that believes in incentives for growth. We used that approach when my administration took office and it is still working under President Bush's leadership. You have done away with price controls, for they create false shortages and inhibit growth. Wage controls thwart growth, too. Do away with wage controls and the efficient, growth-minded businesses will pay more, attract good people and keep on growing. Inefficient enterprises will either wither and die or find ways to become competitive. Ownership is another great incentive for economic growth. If you own your own business you will work hard to make it do well. If your customers are satisfied with your goods and services, they will come back. Thus, there is the closest of connections between the effort you put into it and the rewards you get out of it. Western banks might find it worthwhile to take a good look at including in their plans a fund for lending to small start-up businesses here in Poland. I understand that there is quite a lot of what we call `mattress money' tucked away. If you put a little credit together with a little mattress money, you could open up a great many bakeries, butcher shops, small factories and repair services all over Poland. The privatization bill recently enacted by your government will reduce the number of state monopolies, and that is good, for they will be replaced by enterprises that must be competitive. As inefficient ones are scaled down or closed, however, the challenge is to find new jobs for workers laid off. Your current level of unemployment, 5.2%, would not be very worrisome in the West. We have `safety nets,' consisting of unemployment compensation insurance, retraining programs and employment placement services for workers who are laid off. I understand the U.S. Department of Labor is working with your Ministry of Labor to create a similar safety net for Polish workers. Meanwhile, what about the workers in those state monopolies that are being put up for sale? I am reminded of a technique for employment ownership that has worked well for many U.S. companies. It goes by various names, but the best known is `Employee Stock Ownership Program,' or ESOP. With such a program, the employees create a trust which borrows money from a bank to buy shares of stock in the company. The loan is paid back over several years from the employees' share of the company's profits. How can they be sure the company will be profitable? The workers, as owners, make sure by insisting that unprofitable or obsolete products be replaced by new ones; that operating costs be kept down; and that new efficiencies of operation are adopted. When a person owns assets he or she will look after them. When people believe in something, they can make it work. Just as a pair of Polish patriots helped America make the speeds of its democracy flower, so you of Solidarity have planted those same seeds in Poland. You have nurtured them and seen them grow. Now, you have it within you to make them blossom far, far into the future and to bring renewed vigor to your nation.
As you mentioned he received a special gift. A Polish sword (sabre) is such special gift. Known in Rzeczypospolita since XVI century it was a symbol of honour and nobility, much like Japanese katana. Pictures of Polish officers from the 30's - Westerplatte, Poland.
Polish cavalery sabre from 1917.
P.S. Great, inspirational RR's speech on Evil Empire:http://www.quotedb.com/speeches/evil-empire
and one last but not least... some of the Peace Corps teachers he mentioned taught me my first ABC in English. Thank you! :D
posted on 09/15/2005 3:22:25 PM PDT
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