New Haven, CT – December 12, 2022 – President Lech Wałęsa, the global statesman, democracy activist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will receive the Yale Lifetime of Leadership Award at the Yale CEO Summit on December 13. The award, nominated by past winners and ratified by Yale representatives, will be presented in person at the Plaza Hotel in New York by Darius Adamczyk, Chairman & CEO of Honeywell International; Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia and President of the Asia Society Policy Institute; Klaus Kleinfeld, Chairman & CEO of Constellation Acquisition Corp and former CEO of Siemens AG and Alcoa/Arconic; Rafal Trzaskowski, mayor of Warsaw; and Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University.
Summit organizer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, commented: “Lech Wałęsa is an example of the vast impact a single individual can have in the global campaign for freedom and democracy. His bold, triumphant leadership model unleashed public vocal public sentiment around his nation, across countries and through decades. He also showed that economic pressures can bring down tyranny.
“We are so honored to welcome President Wałęsa for a rare in-person public appearance in the United States. As the legendary leader of the Solidarity labor movement, he was the author of the victory of democracy over communism in Poland in 1989, which helped set off the rapid transformation of the entire ex-Soviet bloc. His life and accomplishments are inseparably connected with the global yearning for freedom and democracy. Especially at a time when democracy is under threat, President Wałęsa symbolizes the eternal promise of freedom over fear.”
Lech Wałęsa was born on October 29, 1943. He first became active in the anti-communist opposition in 1968 when, as a young electrician in the Gdansk Shipyard, he tried to persuade his colleagues not to take part in the mass meetings organized by the Polish government to condemn student strikes during the March 1968 political crisis. In August 1980, Wałęsa was one of the main organizers of the shipyard strike. His resolute character and forceful negotiations led to the realization of the protesters’ demands. Wałęsa led the strikers to a bloodless victory that became the foundation of Solidarity, the first independent and oppositional social movement in the Soviet bloc.
The success of Solidarity, with Wałęsa as its leader, resulted in international recognition, but also a fierce clampdown by the communist regime. On December 13, 1981, in an attempt to suppress political opposition, the regime imposed martial law. The movement was quickly banned and Wałęsa, along with other oppositionists, jailed. The martial law, imposed by Poland’s then-autocratic First Secretary, would continue through July 22. 1983. It shattered the hopes of many freedom activists, but Wałęsa did not despair. His belief in the idea of solidarity eventually inspired the Polish citizenry to reject the repressive Polish regime. Wałęsa’s influence was celebrated by the global community in 1983 when he was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1990, he was elected the president of free Poland, certifying the official end to dictatorial communist rule and ushering in a new period of democracy and prosperity. Both during his presidency and afterward, he remained actively engaged in public life, serving as the advocate of Poland around the world. Wałęsa strongly supported Poland’s accession to NATO and the European Union. In 1995, he founded the Lech Wałęsa Institute. Its aim is to popularize the achievement of Polish solidarity, educate young generations, and support democracy and the creation of civil society in Poland and around the world.
The Lifetime of Leadership award celebrates those transformational leaders whose character and sustained contribution span sectors, decades, and generations with wise ambassadorial service and mentoring, contributing powerfully to improve business performance, economic growth, creativity, community vitality, human understanding, national strength, and global relations. Previous recipients include: former US State Department Secretary, General Colin Powell; Financier Albert H. Gordon; Vanguard founder Jack Bogle; Andrew J. Young, mayor (1982-1990), Atlanta, Georgia, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1977-1979); Carla A. Hills, U.S. trade representative (1989-1993) and fifth U.S. secretary of housing and urban development; Farooq Kathwari CEO, Ethan Allen; David Stern, commissioner emeritus, National Basketball Association; Maurice R. Greenberg, chairman and CEO, CV Starr & Co.; John Whitehead, co-chairman (1976-1985), Goldman Sachs; and US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci.
The theme for this year’s Summit is “Is Coming Home Again Smart or Even Possible? Global Markets and Self Reliance.”
Among the leaders participating are the CEOs and board chairs from Pfizer; Goldman Sachs; Paramount; Johnson & Johnson; Kroger; IBM; Honeywell; Marsh McLennan; Paul Weiss; Yum Brands; Kroger; AB In-Bev; AMC; 1-800 Flowers; Xerox; eBay; Ethereum; Ethan Allen; Snap-On; Bausch Health; Heidrick & Struggles; American Airlines; Kyndryl; Cowen; Atlas Merchant Capital; Patriarch Partners; and Microsoft.
Leadership partners of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute include AlixPartners; Deloitte; Evercore; Gladstone Place Partners; Heidrick & Struggles; IBM; NewsGuard; Paul Weiss, Stagwell; and UPS.
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