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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at the Ceremony Commemorating Polish American Heritage Month


To Secretary Yeutter and Secretary Mosbacher, Secretary Dole, Secretary Derwinski and Chairman Boskin, Ambassador Kinast, Ambassador Ed Rowny, it's a pleasure to be here. It's a great pleasure to see Lane Kirkland and Bob Georgine, Gale Johnson and Ed Moskal here. The congressional delegation, I think, has been a little waylaid, but I was told that Mickey Edwards is going to be here and John Dingell, Robert Borski.

But let me just welcome you all to the Rose Garden on this beautiful fall day into an occasion marking the conclusion of Polish American Heritage Month, which links two people bound by admiration and affection. In one sense, we meet this afternoon to salute the values which unite the United States and Poland, values like faith in God, respect for the family and hard work, and the belief that free expression will conquer tyranny. But in a larger way, we're here to honor the tide toward democracy that these values make possible. For in Poland, as elsewhere, the tide toward oppression is running out; the tide toward liberty is running in. The voice of freedom is the voice of Poland, and the voice of Poland is the voice of tomorrow.

When I was in Poland -- visited Poland last July -- I heard brave men and women proclaim the dignity of the individual and demand the opportunity and self-government that make all things possible for a nation and a people. The Polish national anthem captured this when it proclaims: ``Poland is not lost while Poles still live.'' And today it stirs the shopkeepers of Buffalo and the factory workers of Poznan. The small girl that I saw on a street corner in Gdansk -- tearful, joyous, an American flag stretched upward from her hand -- and she, too, knew that voice. And so does the aging woman in Chicago, teaching her grandchildren the languages of the two countries that she loves -- she's the voice of Poland, resolute and proud. In recent months, this voice has found new power. For by forming a non-Communist government, the first in Eastern Europe in more than 40 years, Poland herself has moved toward a new beginning. Historic political changes are leading to dramatic economic reforms, building new foundations of hope and prosperity, opening new boundaries of market and mind.

Let me say we are inspired by these historic changes -- and also add, from the first our administration has supported them by word and by deed. And that is why on April 17th at Hamtramck, shortly after the signing of the Roundtable Agreement in Poland, we announced a series of initiatives to open U.S. markets and encourage private investment and private sector loans there in Poland, and why, during my visit to Poland in July, we announced an additional package of measures to assist Poland's economic and political revival.

In Paris this summer, I proposed -- and our economic summit partners agreed to -- a plan for concerted Western action. In September, we asked Congress for a 0 million enterprise fund for Poland and extended another 8 million in emergency food aid for Poland.

A good beginning? Yes, certainly, but Poland needs and will have not only concerted Western action but also sustained support for its democratic transition. For its turn towards democracy is historic -- a crucial step, we hope, toward a Europe that is whole and free -- and unprecedented. For never before has a Communist country successfully changed from a state-controlled system to political pluralism, self-determination, and a market economy.

Last month, members of our administration met with key Ministries in the new Polish Government. They detailed their bold reform plan, and we asked the Ministers how best to support them. And they requested as an essential part of their program billion in Western economic aid to stabilize the economy as these radical reforms are implemented. Our response took two forms. First, I asked Congress to approve 0 million in grants, fully in every in Western stabilization funds requested by the Poles themselves. And we are urging our Western economic partners to make major contributions to this fund since the effort will work only if it is fully funded. And second, I announced that we would send to Warsaw a Presidential mission, including U.S. officials, business and labor leaders, and experts to help ensure that Poland's economic recovery becomes a reality and assess how the United States can best help Poland help itself.

This must be and will be a bipartisan effort of the United States Government. And today I'm pleased to announce that this mission will be led by the Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, Secretary of Commerce Mosbacher, Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole, and Council of Economic Advisers [Chairman] Michael Boskin. And they will be joined by at least 15 outstanding chief executive officers, labor leaders, economists, and other experts from the U.S. private sector. Several of them are with me on the dais today.

And our team will meet with the key Ministers of the Polish Government and others involved in stimulating Poland's private sector and recommend to me how the economic support we will extend can best be utilized. It will focus on economic sectors where U.S. expertise and cooperation can indeed make a difference, such as agriculture and business management and financial services. And it will also look at Poland's overall economic situation and at the structural changes needed to make Poland prosper. For this we know: Poland's struggle has always been America's struggle. Maybe that's why it seems that Polish hearts and American hearts beat as one.

Historically, for more than 200 years, and geographically, from Washington to Warsaw and Krakow to Chicago, Americans have echoed the voice of Poland. And we do so now, echoing her love of freedom and opportunity and warmed by the glow from Poland's new flame of democracy, linking the lands of Chopin and Jefferson, Lincoln and Paderewski. Let us keep that flame alive and use it to burn bright the friendship between our peoples so that Polish American Heritage Month symbolizes a better, richer life -- a better life for all our children; a richer life for those who believe, as we do, in the liberty which sets men free.

Thank you very much. And God bless Poland, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to the Polish Ambassador to the United States Jan Kinast; Edward L. Rowny, Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State for Arms Control Matters; Lane Kirkland, president of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL - CIO); Robert Georgine, president of the building and construction trades department of the AFL - CIO; Gale Johnson, professor of economics at the University of Chicago; and Edward Moskal, president of the Polish American Congress.

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