PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS FOR THE NEW YEAR 2001

On December 31, 2000 President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski addressed the Nation:

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen!

I feel extremely honored to be able to join you at your homes tonight, on the eve of the New Year. It is for the sixth time that I have had this honor.

Eight days ago, before the General Assembly, I once again took an oath of allegiance to the Republic of Poland.

I want to say it again: I treat the Polish people's trust in me as the topmost obligation to serve Poland.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Only a few hours remain before we welcome the year 2001. It will be an exceptional moment, a moment that will mark the beginning the New Year, the new century, and the new millennium. Tonight, we have a unique opportunity to ponder the lapse of time, the changing history, and the way we, ourselves, are changing. That is why the character of this evening differs from any other New Year's Eve night.

The 20th century is becoming history. It has been a century of the bloodiest wars, criminal ideologies, and millions of innocent victims, but also a century of fascinating achievements of human thought. The 20th century was to have been a time of freedom, democracy, equality of opportunity, material prosperity, and the promotion of the handicapped. But only some of these dreams have come true. The world has not managed to solve a number of its acute problems: famine, poverty, disease, and conflicts. Totalitarian regimes have degraded the value of human life. Noble ideals have often backfired. Knowledge and technology have often served violence instead of progress, while education and culture have lost the competition with indoctrination and propaganda, with mass culture obliterating the individuality of man. Nevertheless, the 20th century has also been the time of people, both individuals and entire communities, who have stood the most difficult of tests. It is our duty to see all the bad sides of this century, so that we are able to avoid them in the future. But it is also our duty to see all the good sides, so that the great expectations of the century's last decade can bear fruit in the future.

Our history, like a mirror, reflects all the dramas and dilemmas of the century. I recall all the people whose fate has been so extremely difficult and heroic. I recall the exiles and the fighters for independence, soldiers of the First and Second World Wars and the war of 1920. I recall the fighters of the Wielkopolska Rising, the young fighters of the Lvov Rising, the soldiers of the Polish Resistance Movement, the fighters of the Warsaw Uprising and the Ghetto Uprising.

I recall the heroes that reconstructed the Polish state after 1918 and those that rebuilt it from ruins after 1945. I recall the few and courageous men and women who spoke up for Poland's sovereignty, freedom, democracy, and human dignity not only in 1956, 1970, 1976, and 1980, but also throughout their long and relentless fight. I recall the men and women of culture and science thanks to whom we are spiritually richer and respected by the outside world. I recall the members of the Polish Catholic Church, who throughout the century have defended not only the faith, but also the fundamental values, tradition, and the Polish spirit and sustained the relentless spirit of the nation. I'd like to express our greatest gratitude to Pope John Paul II, the greatest Pole, whose personal fate reflects like a mirror the ending century. I thank you the Pope for what he has done for us and the world. I also recall other churches and religious organizations and their clergymen with gratitude for their service on Poland's winding road of history. And I also recall millions of my fellow compatriots in Poland and across the world: from Siberia, through Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Scandinavia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, to Australia and Africa. Each of you and each of us have participated in this century, have witnessed it, and have been part of it. I recall all of you and I want to tell you that throughout the 20th century we have shown the world an example of perseverance, solidarity, and willingness to sacrifice. And, today, we are proving our talents, hard work, and determination in introducing Poland into the family of the best-developed European countries, in restoring Poland's proper place in Europe, in making up for the delay, and in ensuring freedom, development, and social justice to the Homeland. We are still a country abounding in personal difficulties and dramas. A large number of the Polish people are without a job. A large number of the Polish people find it difficult to make both ends meet. The Polish rural communities are experiencing hardships. Contrasts and social inequalities are growing. The way we cope with social problems and the way we help the weakest and the least fortunate will serve as a measure of our achievements and progress.

Polish people tend to be more willing to criticize rather than praise the developments in Poland. We tend to worry in advance rather than to be satisfied. However, this national inclination should not overshadow our achievements.

Poland is transforming and modernizing. Poland is safe. Poland is growing economically. Life expectancy is rising. And so is the level of education, with the number of university students trebled. Unlike in the past, Polish people now more often return from emigration than leave Poland in search of a better future.Polish people have achieved a great deal in the last eleven years. But we need a great deal of will power and patience to go forward and achieve even more. We need to continue the good and discard the bad. The sooner we do it, the better.

Poland is respected by the international community. On the thousandth anniversary of the meeting in Gniezno, presidents and prime ministers of Central European countries gathered in this historic town. And the United Nations Organization has recently adopted the Polish-sponsored convention on combating organized crime. Europe and the world has come to perceive Polish people as a nation that has not only managed to regain independence, but has also managed to achieve normality, and a nation that is soon to be associated with modernity. Poland is no longer treated as a newcomer but as a member of the European community of nations. And, that is why, despite the different sides of everyday life, we should not hesitate as to which feelings should prevail.

Poland and Polish people deserve to feel satisfied, proud, and confident in welcoming the year 2001 and the new century.

The year 2000 that is about to end has been a year of important developments in different fields. Poland has enjoyed a high profile and a good reputation. Cracow has been one of the European cities of culture. The Polish exhibitions at the World Expo in Hanover and the Book Fair in Frankfurt were highly successful. Poland has gained fame thanks to the international recognition of outstanding Polish artists: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Krzysztof Penderecki, Tadeusz Rózewicz, Jerzy Stuhr, Andrzej Wajda, and Krzysztof Zanussi. Polish scientists participating in international research programs have also done very well. They included professors Jan Strelau (psychology), Bogumil Jeziorski (chemistry), Jan Weglarz (information technology), and Anna Podhajska (biotechnology). These are just a few of the names of outstanding representatives worth mentioning. We were also happy with the medals won at the wonderful Olympic and Paraolympic Games in Sydney. I would like the successes of our sportsmen and especially the gold medals of the persevering and brave Robert Korzeniowski to serve as a model to young Poles.

I am convinced that the new century will be the time of yet another leap of our civilization. It will also be a century of strong and uncompromising competition, as well as growing requirements and challenges with which we will all have to deal.I am sure that Poland will be successful in meeting these challenges. We stand such a chance as never before.

To make this happen, we will, in particular, need a sense of community, a capacity for agreement, wisdom to peaceably reach our objectives, and a great deal of hard work. Our leap into the future will prove successful only if we invest in education.

We should not feel lonely during this exceptional night. We want to extend our wishes and words of love to our relatives. Not everyone can spend this unique night the way they would wish to spend.

I extend my warmest wishes and words of hope to those of you who are sick, suffering, homeless, or lonely. I greet and thank those of you who are on duty tonight. I wish you all that you hopes and expectations come true in this special year. I wish you many good days and successful moments.

I address these words to Polish families, each and every man and woman: from the oldest pensioners to the youngest, a generation of the 21st century. I wish all the best to those of you who are facing difficulties in their life and continued success to those who are successful. My thoughts go to the people of large cities and small towns, as well as the people of Polish villages and the Polish people living abroad.

May peace, kindness, solidarity, justice, and dignity be the signs of the beginning century across the world.

May our wishes and dreams come true in the New Year, the new century, and the new millenium.

I wish happiness to all the Polish people.

May the new century be the time of opportunity well used for the benefit of Poland.

May the new century be generous to all of us and to our Homeland.