Primary Sources

President Bush's Remarks to the Polish National Assembly

Description

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. In the following speech to Poland’s newly elected National Assembly, Bush invoked the potential dangers of change by making reference to the massacre in Tiananmen Square that had occurred a month earlier, but also quoted Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sanctioning the right of national self-determination. According to press reports, Bush’s speech received a mixed response, due to the meager amount of aid he proposed—$100 million, even though Lech Walesa had announced that Poland needed $10 billion—and his repeated reminders of further sacrifices required by Poles before progress in reconstruction could occur. Comments by Bush’s chief of staff, John Sununu, that giving “too much” aid would place Poland in the position of “a young person in the candy store” without “the self-discipline to take the right steps” were considered patronizing by many Poles.

Source

George H. W. Bush, "Remarks to the Polish National Assembly," speech, Warsaw, Poland, July 10, 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

... [O]n behalf of the people of the United States, I am honored to greet the newly elected representatives of the Polish Parliament. To be here with you on this occasion is proof that we live in extraordinary, indeed, thrilling times....

A profound cycle of turmoil and great change is sweeping the world from Poland to the Pacific. It is sometimes inspiring, as here in Warsaw, and sometimes it's agonizing, as in China today. But the magnitude of change we sense around the world compels us to look within ourselves and to God to forge a rare alloy of courage and restraint....

Poland is where the cold war began, and now the people of Poland can help bring the division of Europe to an end. The time has come to move beyond containment to a world too long deferred, a better world....

And now, in part because of what you are doing here, the genuine opportunity exists for all of us to build a Europe which many thought was destroyed forever in the 1940's. That Europe, the Europe of our children, will be open, whole, and free....

Mikhail Gorbachev has written: “Universal security rests on the recognition of the right of every nation to choose its own path of social development and on the renunciation of interference in the domestic affairs of other states. A nation may choose either capitalism or socialism. This is its sovereign right.” ... And so, the West works not to disrupt, not to interfere, not to threaten any nation's security but to help forge closer and enduring ties between Poland and the rest of Europe....

We understand in my country the enormous economic problems you face. Economic privation is a danger that can threaten any great democratic experiment. And I must speak honestly: Economic reform and recovery cannot occur without sacrifices....

The reform of the Polish economy presents an historic challenge. There can be no substitute for Poland's own efforts, but I want to stress to you today that Poland is not alone. Given the enormity of this moment, the United States stands ready to help as you help yourselves....

How to Cite this Source

President George H. W. Bush, "President Bush's Remarks to the Polish National Assembly," Making the History of 1989, Item #45, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/45 (accessed August 21 2014, 7:58 pm).

Associated Files