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Friday, December 23, 2011

President Ronald Reagan: The Candle's Beacon of a Foregone Era of Strength

"They have answered the stirrings of liberty with brute force..."

Those words were part of an address given by President Ronald Reagan on December 23, 1981, as a response to the brutal imposition of Martial Law in Poland.

On a cold and snowy Sunday morning on December 13, 1981 the Poles woke up to find their country under Martial Law (literally - The State of War or "stan wojenny"). The Martial Law was imposed by the Military Council for National Salvation lead by, then, prime minister Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and consisting of 20 other high ranking military officers.

The WRON declared Martial Law to "defend socialism". They felt threatened by the members of the first independent trade union behind the Iron Curtin - the Solidarity (Solidarnosc). The Solidarity had been founded only 18 months earlier, in August of 1980 after several weeks of strikes. The workers had gone on strike to protest poor living conditions and lack of independent representation. With the birth of the Solidarity hopes were high that the new trade union would help to pressure the government to introduce economical reforms and ease restrictions. The government quickly realized that the Solidarity was a threat to the system. Several road blocks were created to derail the Solidarity but the union seemed to grow stronger. The situation made the Soviets very worried and they, on he several occasions, pressured the Polish government and the Polish Communist Party (PZPR) to de-legalized the Solidarity. For the Polish government it soon became apparent that the union was too strong and far too popular to simply de-legalize it. A drastic action was need to oust the Solidarity, so martial law was imposed.

The Constitution stated that martial law could be imposed for defense or national security reasons. The Constitution allowed the State Council (Rada Panstwa) to impose a martial law while the parliament (Sejm) was not in session. Although the parliament was in session, the State Council headed by Henryk Jablonski unconstitutionally passed the law under pressure from the military. Only one member of the Council, Ryszard Reiff, voted against the resolution. The vote took place in the early morning hours of December 13 while Martial Law was under way: people arrested, restriction imposed. The State Council merely rubber stamped the decision of the military that took over the control in the country.

Thousands of Solidarity leadership and activists were arrested and imprisoned without court sentence. Among those arrested was Lech Walesa, the legendary Solidarity leader. The WRON, in an obvious public relations stunt, also arrested some prominent figures from the previous government....


In 1981, I was in university, and the birth of Solidarnosc was one of the few rare occasions when I became politically active. Sure, I had been aware of world events up until then, but the events in Poland jarred me from my sleep-deprived new motherhood and prompted me to join with thousands of others - on my own campus, and with other campuses and free citizens around the world - to protest the brutal regime stomping on the liberties of ordinary men and women in Poland. I was compelled to raise my voice, and get involved to speak out, to act, against opppression. And so I did.

I was reminded of this just yesterday when a friend (thanks, Maggie) shared a column she had found:

Christmas 1981: A Flame for Freedom in Poland

by Paul Kengor

December 2011 might not be an anniversary on the minds of American Catholics, but it is close and near and dear to the hearts of Polish Catholics. As American Catholics, we ought to pause here, today, to consider why. The reasons are historically and even spiritually inspiring.

It was 30 years ago, December 13, 1981, that martial law was imposed upon Poland by the communist government. Poles were aghast, horrified, frightened. And so was the man in Rome, a Polish native named John Paul II, and so was another man thousands of miles away in Washington, DC, President Ronald Reagan.

When word of the communists’ actions reached the White House, President Reagan was furious. He wanted to help the people of Poland in any way he could. At that very moment, Reagan committed to save and sustain the Polish Solidarity movement as the wedge that could splinter the entire Soviet bloc, as the first crack in the Iron Curtain.


On that date, Reagan held a private meeting in the White House with the Polish ambassador, Romuald Spasowski, and his wife, both of whom had just defected to the United States. Michael Deaver, a close Reagan aide, witnessed the meeting. Deaver later recorded:

The ambassador and his wife were ushered into the Oval Office, and the two men sat next to one another in plush-leather wingback chairs. Vice President Bush, and the ambassador’s wife, sat facing them on a couch.


Then, almost sheepishly, [the ambassador] said, “May I ask you a favor, Mr. President? Would you light a candle and put in the window tonight for the people of Poland?”

And right then, Ronald Reagan got up and went to the second floor, lighted a candle, and put it in the window of the dining room....

This really IS a must read column here.

As Americans may remember, President Reagan addressed the nation on December 23 (yes, this day in 1981) as he was also reaching out to the Pope John Paul II behind the scenes - you know, away from the media cameras.

Take a look, and listen (carefully)

on Oct 2, 2009

(December 23,1981)

In August 1980, a worker's strike began in Gdansk, Poland in reaction to the struggling economy and massive shortages. In a compromise, the Communist government legalized Solidarity, but this only increased tensions. Imports from the Soviet Union and the West failed to improve the economy, with more strikes becoming endemic throughout 1980 and 1981. Fearing a Soviet military invasion to restore order, President Ronald Reagan issued a stern warning to Moscow in the spring of 1981. On December 13, the Polish Communist Party, prodded by the Soviets, declared martial law and outlawed Solidarity. Reagan wished to quarantine the Soviets & Poland with no trade, or communications across their borders, he told the National Security Council, and tell our NATO allies & others to join us in such sanctions or risk an estrangement from us. In the following televised address, however, the president issued more modest sanctions on Poland.

I couldn't figure out how to access Part 2 for the end of the President's speech, but if you go here, you'll find a video (without embedding options) of the whole thing. GO watch. You'll also find the transcript of the speech.

This speech is amazing, as President Reagan first talks about Christmas and America:

We've lived here as your tenants for almost a year now, and what a year it's been. As a people we've been through quite a lot—moments of joy, of tragedy, and of real achievement—moments that I believe have brought us all closer together.

[...] we've begun the long, hard work of economic recovery. Our goal is an America in which every citizen who needs and wants a job can get a job. Our program for recovery has only been in place for 12 weeks now, but it is beginning to work. With your help and prayers, it will succeed. We're winning the battle against inflation, runaway government spending and taxation, and that victory will mean more economic growth, more jobs, and more opportunity for all Americans...

President Reagan then goes on to discuss the situation in Poland, and what he intends America's response to be:

As I speak to you tonight, the fate of a proud and ancient nation hangs in the balance. For a thousand years, Christmas has been celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous Polish people. They have been betrayed by their own government.

The men who rule them and their totalitarian allies fear the very freedom that the Polish people cherish. They have answered the stirrings of liberty with brute force, killings, mass arrests, and the setting up of concentration camps. Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders are imprisoned, their fate unknown. Factories, mines, universities, and homes have been assaulted...


As I speak to you tonight, the fate of a proud and ancient nation hangs in the balance. For a thousand years, Christmas has been celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous Polish people. They have been betrayed by their own government.

The men who rule them and their totalitarian allies fear the very freedom that the Polish people cherish. They have answered the stirrings of liberty with brute force, killings, mass arrests, and the setting up of concentration camps. Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders are imprisoned, their fate unknown. Factories, mines, universities, and homes have been assaulted...


These actions [sanctions] are not directed against the Polish people. They are a warning to the government of Poland that free men cannot and will not stand idly by in the face of brutal repression. To underscore this point, I've written a letter to General Jaruzelski, head of the Polish government. In it, I outlined the steps we're taking and warned of the serious consequences if the Polish government continues to use violence against its populace. I've urged him to free those in arbitrary detention, to lift martial law, and to restore the internationally recognized rights of the Polish people to free speech and association....

The rest of the transcript is here.

As I watched the video, and read the transcript of this great speech and declaration of America's power being brought to bear in the name of freedom around the world, of course my thoughts turned to today. The state of the world today, and the current resident (Mouth In Chief) in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue highlighted for me - yet again - the sorry shape we are all in, as BHO tries to destroy America's standing in the world, and yes, the dire straits America is in at home.

For me, it is impossible to watch this speech without lamenting that those days when America stood up for the oppressed in the world, and was very open and clear what her views on tyranny were, apparently are but a mere shadow of the past. In those days, NObody doubted for one minute that America would stand 'for the innocent and the weak' no matter where in the world they happened to be born.

Don't believe that times have changed, and that America's response to governments' oppressing and killing their own citizens is now a mere shrug?

Remember this picture?

That's Iran, and images like that went around the world, as did the video of Neda, a protestor being killed on the streets of Iran, also went global. Remember THIS? I do, as I also remember the placards begging the world to help them, as they fought for democracy.

BHO's answer on behalf of America? Harsh words for the Iranian regime. Period. Today the violence and killing in Iran still continues, and Obama spouts disapproval - and does nothing. I am reminded as I watch America's response to Iran, of the day Ronald Reagan became President of the US. On that day, those held hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran were released. This after many months of that other great appeaser president, Jimmy Carter, talk talk talking in his futile attempts to reason with the Iranian terrorists holding Americans for ransom.

Iran is not the only stark example of the differences between the days of the Ronald Reagan presidency and the inept tool who holds that globally respected office today - well, at least it was respected back in those days. Today? Not so much.

Today, BHO and his minions go on camera and express 'outrage' in empty platitudes as daily news of governments killing their citizens assail us all, and the killings continue. Syria, anyone? Many countries on the African continent are also still killing their own citizens.

Now, as back in the Reagan era, and as Ronald Reagan said so eloquently in this speech:

The world is full of peril, as well as promise. Too many of its people, even now, live in the shadow of want and tyranny.

Obama makes pretty speeches, and does NOTHING, and the murderers around the planet continue their crusades of tyranny. When Ronald Reagan spoke for America, the thugs around the world KNEW that swift and measured - just - action would follow. And it DID.

'Pretty speeches...' Much has been made of the inspirational speeches BHO delivers. Yes, for some I suppose his oratory sounds good, but the tyrants of the world KNOW he is an empty suit, spouting empty words written by someone else. Yes, Ronald Reagan previously was an actor, used to delivering lines someone else may have written for him, but even in this speech, the listener hears the sincerity, knows he means those words.

Ronald Reagan knew and demonstrated that he knew that he spoke FOR America. In this speech, alone, he talks of being the 'tenant in the people's House.'

Compare and contrast.

Yes, I am sure the Obamabots will say I am being petty, and picking at straws, but this picture symbolises, for me, just one of the obvious, myriad, differences between the respect and dignity Ronald Reagan and BHO hold for the highest office in the land, and as Leader of the Free World.

Leader of the Free World? Used to be that the American President was revered and respected as such. Today, not so much. Used to be (as Tony Blair once famously said, and I paraphrase here,) that America and all she stood for was so envied around the world that escapees from despots struggled to arrive in the USA. Nowadays? Not so much, except of course, the illegals that are pouring across America's southern borders. And yes, note well that many of those illegals are terrorists of various stripes. Why not, since Obama is working almost overtime on ensuring that those very same illegals are given the sames rights and privileges that native American citizens are born into. You know, those GOD-given rights.

And there again, another difference between Reagan and BHO: Regean always had a humility about him as he performed his duties, as he acknowledged - often - his Christian faith. BHO? How many times have we all seen him kowtow to every muslim leader? I am no conspiracy theorist - no, really I'm not! - but why it is only recently that we see or hear Obama
make reference to our Christian God, as he bows and scrapes to the Muslim leaders? Hmmmmmm?

I won't even get into a discussion of the American economic state, and the obvious differences between the Reagan administration and BHO administration solutions to address the - again - almost parallel state of the nation of the two presidents. Listen to President Reagan's speech and compare and contrast.

All of these differences are well documented elsewhere, but for me the most stark contrast is in the foreign policy arena.

In this speech, Ronald Reagan says:

I want emphatically to state tonight that if the outrages in Poland do not cease, we cannot and will not conduct "business as usual" with the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them. Make no mistake, their crime will cost them dearly in their future dealings with America and free peoples everywhere. I do not make this statement lightly or without serious reflection...

He then goes on to itemise all the steps he has already ordered the US government to take in response to the crushing of liberty in Poland.

BHO's response to the madness marauding so many places today? Pretty words, and wagging of fingers. Sure, economic sanctions have been put in place, but even those or anything beyond those pretty words of Obama's are usually only after the global community has taken the lead.

Compare and contrast - again:

They are a warning to the government (of Poland) that free men cannot and will not stand idly by in the face of brutal repression.

America today is not seen as a force to be reckoned with (and yes, I'll leave the discussion of America's Military to those more qualified to speak on that topic, like the Veterans, such as War On Terror News etc.)

One of the last paragraphs in President Reagan's speech has this:

Once, earlier in this century, an evil influence threatened that the lights were going out all over the world. Let the light of millions of candles in American homes give notice that the light of freedom is not going to be extinguished. We are blessed with a freedom and abundance denied to so many. Let those candles remind us that these blessings bring with them a solid obligation, an obligation to the God who guides us, an obligation to the heritage of liberty and dignity handed down to us by our forefathers and an obligation to the children of the world, whose future will be shaped by the way we live our lives today.

As a foreigner who has come to know and love many wonderful Americans, and count them as my family, I often despair for the future of not only America, but for the children of our world. I do.

But I still - and will always - hang on to, and believe in the strength and moral courage of every day Americans, of whom Obama is but a dimly lit caricature. Despite BHO's best effforts, I really DO believe that America's standing in the world will revert back to those halcyon days when America did more than talk of the outrages daily wrought against innocent citizens globally; those days when America spoke, and terrorists and despots quaked in their boots, because they KNEW America meant what she said. I do hold firm to the knowledge that America's Candle (the) Beacon of a Foregone Era of Strength will shine as ever brightly around our world, as it did in other dark days in world history.

In the meantime, as President Reagan ends this speech:

“God bless us, every one.”

[*cross-posted from Assoluta Tranquillita*]