From electrician to labor leader to the first democratically elected President of Poland, the path Lech Walesa's life has taken has left a changed world in its passing.
In 1980 he led the 10 million-member Solidarity Labor Movement that inspired fear in the hearts of communist leadership and hope in the hearts of those starved for freedom. Despite the crackdown of martial law and repeated imprisonment, Walesa prevailed to see the end of communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.
For his heroic efforts Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. He received praise from leaders worldwide including President Ronald Reagan. "Lech Walesa's triumph is a victory for those who seek to enlarge the human spirit over those who seek to crush it" - Reagan said.
In 1990 he was elected President of Poland. Walesa's term in office set the country firmly on the path to becoming a free market democracy, enabling it to receive one of the first invitations to join an expanded NATO. He currently leads the Lech Walesa Institute whose aim is to champion democracy and free market in Eastern Europe and throughout the developing world.