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Release: Immediate

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Lech Walesa to speak at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will speak at the University of Iowa April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union. Walesa's lecture, "Solidarity: The New Millennium" is sponsored by the UI Lecture Committee.

In 1980 Walesa led the 10 million-member Solidarity labor movement to an agreement with the Polish government to grant the movement legal recognition and to grant workers the right to form independent unions and to strike. This was a short lived agreement, however, and by December 1981, the Polish government declared martial law, suspended the activities of all unions, and arrested thousands of Solidarity members, including Walesa. In the fall of 1982, the government officially outlawed Solidarity. Walesa was released that same fall and continued his leadership of Solidarity as an underground organization. Celebrated world wide as a symbol of the hope for freedom, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

For the next five years, the country became marked more and more by chaos and labor unrest. Acknowledging that it could no longer control the country, the government re-legalized Solidarity and invited it to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government. In the resulting election, Solidarity won almost every contest. Having brought the Communist government to its knees, Walesa was elected president of Poland Dec. 9, 1990 in the first democratic election in the country since before World War II. He won more than 74 percent of the vote.

Walesa, who is currently on a U.S. lecture tour, will deliver his lecture in Polish, and it will be translated as he speaks. This is the first time the Lecture Committee has invited a lecturer who does not speak English, said Shirin Sadeghi, Lecture Committee chair. "We're pretty proud of that," she said. "It shows the diversity and open-mindedness of the committee." She added that one of the reasons the committee chose Walesa as a speaker was to complement the human rights initiatives of Global Focus: Human Rights 1998, the university-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Following his lecture, Walesa will take questions from the audience. There will be a reception after the presentation. For further information about the program, contact the UI Lecture Committee at (319) 335-3255.

(Editors note: Walesa will hold a question/answer session for the media on the IMU sunporch at 5 p.m. April 1.)