Looking to Lech - Macleans.ca

Looking to Lech

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On the occasion of that little anniversary in Berlin today, former Polish president Lech Walesa is once more front and centre, which is relevant to our narrow interest in that Mr. Walesa is one of Stephen Harper’s personal heroes. The two met last year when the Prime Minister visited Poland. Here, for whatever reason, is a photo of Mr. Walesa impatiently awaiting Mr. Harper’s arrival.

Mr. Walesa is a fascinating character, both historically and personally. And, should you so choose, you could likely derive all sorts of flimsy links to Mr. Harper’s own story. Here is Timothy Garton Ash’s summation for Time’s 100 most important people of the century issue.

Walesa is a phenomenon. Still mustachioed but thickset now, he stands for many values that in the West might be thought conservative. Fierce patriotism (“nationalism,” say his critics), strong Catholic views, the family. He’s a fighter, of course. But he’s also mercurial, unpredictable–and a consummate politician. He is an example of someone who was magnificent in the struggle for freedom but less so in more normal times, when freedom was won and the task was to consolidate a stable, law-abiding democracy. For all his presidential airs, he still retains something of the old Lech, the working-class wag and chancer that his friends remember from the early days. But no one can deny him his place in history.