Witness to Polish Democracy
June 03,1989


Senator Dole traveled with his wife, Secretary Elizabeth Dole, to communist controlled Poland in 1989, just one day before the first democratic elections in forty-five years. In his report back to Congress he said, “we arrived in Warsaw on a historic and exciting day- the day that a great nation elected its first democratically chosen leader in more than half a century.” In addition to meeting with Prime Minister Mazowiecki and top leaders of the Solidarity movement, Senator and Secretary Dole had the opportunity to meet with newly elected President Lech Walesa, who Senator Dole called, “truly a hero, not only to Poles but to freedom loving people around the world.” During their meeting, Walesa pleaded with Dole for assistance from the United States to prevent a communist overthrow of the infant democracy, saying “we have lifted the Iron Curtain but it is getting heavy. We need help.” Dole supported aid initiatives for Poland that had been proposed by the Bush administration, but urged additional aid. “I believe it is in our best interest, America’s interest, to take some additional steps now on behalf of freedom in Poland. I believe we should send some additional, immediate signal of American support for the Mazowiecki government.” In 2003, Walesa accepted the Dole Leadership Prize given by the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. This annual award is given to a group or individual whose leadership through honorable service in our democracy has served to inspire others.