Primary Sources

President Bush's Remarks at the Solidarity Workers Monument


President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and Hungary in July 1989 after June elections in which Solidarity candidates won 160 of the 161 seats in the Sejm that were available to them and 92 of the 100 seats of the Polish Senate. In addition, many leaders of the Communist Party failed to secure enough votes to be elected to the parliament they had controlled for four decades. Pursuing a new US policy he referred to as “beyond containment,” Bush wished to show US support for a movement toward the integration of Eastern Europe into the “community of nations” without provoking a backlash among Soviet and Eastern European leaders. After meeting with Polish leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski and addressing the Polish National Assembly, Bush traveled to Gdansk, where he lunched with Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and addressed a crowd of 25,000 outside the factory gates of the Lenin Shipyard, at the site where Solidarity began nine years earlier, in front of a monument erected to commemorate the lives of 45 workers killed by government forces during a 1970 strike over food prices. Impressed with Jaruzelski’s openness to change, Bush paid homage in the speech to the government’s “wisdom and creativity and courage.” He had urged Jaruzelski to run for president, believing that a coalition government would be best suited to withstand the criticisms that stringent economic measures most likely would entail. One week later, Jaruzelski won the election with Solidarity’s support, thereby creating a power-sharing arrangement that in August resulted in a Solidarity-led coalition government that the Soviet Union accepted.


George H. W. Bush, "Remarks at the Solidarity Workers Monument in Gdansk," speech, Gdansk, Poland, July 11, 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Today, to those who think that hopes can be forever suppressed, I say: Let them look at Poland! To those who think that freedom can be forever denied, I say: Let them look at Poland! And to those who think that dreams can be forever repressed, I say: Look at Poland! For here in Poland, the dream is alive.

Yes, today the brave workers of Gdansk stand beside this monument as a beacon of hope, a symbol of that dream. And the brave workers of Gdansk know Poland is not alone. America stands with you.

Audience members. President Bush! President Bush! President Bush!

The President. Because Americans are so free to dream, we feel a special kinship with those who dream of a better future. Here in Poland, the United States supports the roundtable accords and applauds the wisdom, tenacity, and patience of one of Poland's great leaders—Lech Walesa. And again -- --

Audience members. Lech Walesa! Lech Walesa! Lech Walesa!

The President. And we cheer a movement that has touched the imagination of the world. That movement is Solidarnosc. And we applaud those who have made this progress possible: the Polish people. We recognize, too, that the Polish Government has shown wisdom and creativity and courage in proceeding with these historic steps....

We understand the legacy of distrust and shattered dreams as Poles of all political complexions travel together down the path of negotiation and compromise. Your challenge is to rise above distrust and bring the Polish people together toward a common purpose....

It will not be easy. Sacrifice and economic hardship have already been the lot of the Polish people. And hard times are not yet at an end. Economic reform requires hard work and restraint before the benefits are realized. And it requires patience and determination. But the Polish people are no strangers to hard work and have taught the world about determination.

So, I say follow your dream of a better life for you and for your children. You can see a new and prosperous Poland not overnight, not in a year—but, yes, a new and prosperous Poland in your lifetime. It has been done by Polish people before. Hopeful immigrants came to that magical place called America and built a new life for themselves in a single generation. And it can be done by Polish people again. But this time, it will be done in Poland....

How to Cite this Source

President George H. W. Bush, "President Bush's Remarks at the Solidarity Workers Monument," Making the History of 1989, Item #36, (accessed May 25 2020, 10:54 pm).