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Lech Walesa received the 2005 Dole Leadership Prize for championing freedom while still under Communist rule.
Walesa became a well-known activist and leader of the Solidarity movement in Soviet-controlled Poland during the late 1970s and early 80s. In 1978, Walesa helped organize the first noncommunist trade union in Poland. He led the Gdansk shipyard strike demanding workers’ rights in 1980. The successful strike earned him international fame with its resulting settlement that gave workers the right to strike and organize their own independent unions. Solidarity became the Soviet Bloc’s first independent trade union and Walesa was Time Magazine’s 1980 “Man of the Year.”
Despite the success, the relative freedom didn’t last long. In December 1981, the government again cracked down on Solidarity leaders, including Walesa. Yet even after his detainment and release, Walesa continued to promote the Solidarity movement.
Walesa’s courageous leadership contributed to the establishment of a non-communist government in Poland. He was elected President of the Republic of Poland in 1990, where he served until 1995.
Walesa has received many great honors for his continued commitment to freedom in the face of adversity, including the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.