At this year’s third convocation, former Polish President and Nobel laureate Lech Walesa spoke to a full chapel audience. After a brief introduction from President Rik Warch, Walesa received an honorary doctorate of laws.Speaking through an interpreter, Walesa concisely spoke about the history of his country, what he sees as a new era in world history, and globalization.
Walesa began by chracterizing his country as one that had experienced an uncommon amount of political struggle. Poland, he said, lies between Germany and Russion, two countries between whom there is a history of warfare. Walesa talked about Poland’s political history since World War II and the Cold War, jokingly summarizing it by saying since Poland is a beautiful country, the Germans and Russians on their way to visiting each other tend to stay there often.
Walesa sees the world entering a new era he calls the “Era of the Air.” This new era, he says, is an information age where intelligence, education, and technology become much more important. He called the previous time in human history the “Era of the Land,” and described it as shaped by the struggle over land.
The “Era of Air,” according to Walesa, dawned with the new millenium and because it is so new, the world’s framework has not yet changed with it. Walesa ascribed some of the world’s difficulties in dealing with contemporary events to the perseverance of traditional frameworks for handling these problems.
In addition to this new era, Walesa talked about the world trend towards globalization, saying that the United States, as the one superpower left in the world, had to be a leader in the new era. If there were a global government, China’s population would give it a significant majority of popular votes among nations.
The convocation was delivered by a man who had influenced history and who had clearly been influenced by the history of which he had played so central a part.