H.E. Lech Wałęsa
His Excellency Lech Wałęsa was born on September 29, 1943, in Popowo, Poland. After serving in the military for two years, Wałęsa became an electrician at the Gdańsk Shipyards. In 1980, Wałęsa led the Gdańsk Shipyard strike which led to strikes throughout Poland. The Polish government was forced to yield to the strike and entered negotiations with Wałęsa and his followers. The Gdańsk Agreement of August 31, 1980, gave workers the right to strike and to organize their own independent union. Supported by the Catholic Church, Wałęsa was elected Solidarity Chairman of the First National Solidarity Congress in Gdańsk. However, martial law was soon imposed, Solidarity was suspended, and Wałęsa was put under house arrest by General Jaruzelki. After his release in 1982, Wałęsa continued to work with Solidarity leaders in secret. As economic conditions worsened, the Jaruzelski regime was heavily criticized and forced to negotiate with Wałęsa and other Solidarity leaders. Limited parliament elections were soon held and led to the establishment of a non-communist government. In April 1990, Wałęsa was elected the Chairman of Solidarity’s second national congress, and within months he was elected as President of the Republic of Poland. In addition to the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom in 2006, Wałęsa has been awarded the Medal of Freedom, the Award of Free World, and the European Award of Human Rights.