George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a State Dinner Honoring President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland

July 17, 2002

Thank you all. Mr. President and Madam First Lady, it's a great privilege for Laura and I to host you here in the White House. Tonight's dinner is a small way of saying dziekuja for the warm hospitality you showed us last year in Warsaw.

Today, Poland and the United States are meeting the challenges of our times, sustained by bonds of kinship, culture, and commerce that unite our peoples. Two centuries ago, Poles fought for America's independence. Before and since, thousands of American communities have been enriched by the energies of millions of Poles who came here to settle.

Mr. President, tomorrow we'll travel to Michigan to visit one of those communities. But pride requires me to point out that the oldest permanent Polish settlement in America can be found in my home State. In the fall of 1854, more than 100 Polish families traveled to the prairies of south Texas, seeking greater freedom and opportunity. They arrived at their destination on Christmas Eve, and they christened their new settlement Panna Maria, or Virgin Mary. The town is still there, a living symbol of our common ties.

Just as Poles keep contributing to America's vitality, Poland keeps contributing to the vitality of the entire world. Poland's opposition to Soviet tyranny inspired half a continent and helped bring down an evil empire. And the passion for human dignity and iron integrity of a Polish Pope has added to the momentum of freedom around the globe. Freedom did not have to be imported into Poland. It is found naturally in the rhythm of every Polish heart, a commitment of conscience and faith stronger than the brutality of conquerors or the official lies of oppressors.

In 1989, Poles on all sides of the ideological divide made an historic decision to build a society based on democracy and human rights and the rule of law. Two years later, more than 100 political parties participated in Poland's parliamentary elections, including one party called the Beer Lovers' Party. We're watching to see how much beer you drink tonight, Mr. President. [Laughter] All but a handful of these parties were committed to a Poland founded on freedom.

In the decades since, Poland has continued to be an example for other nations seeking to claim their democratic future. And Poland has found what America has found, that democracy and free markets are honorable and just and indispensable to national progress.

America and Poland are joined by a commitment to helping each other along freedom's road. Thomas Jefferson once wrote to Kosciuszko and praised him for being true to a single object, the freedom and happiness of man. Today, this single object defines Poland itself, and it defines the partnership between Poland and America. Together we can and we will complete the unification of Europe. We will reach out to Russia and Ukraine, and we will win the war against terror.

Poland and America share a vision that is stronger than intolerance and hatred and bigotry. It is a vision of a world that is free and just, a world that respects people's dignity and rewards their enterprise and creativity.

Mr. President, let us toast to friendship between our countries. Tonight the old Polish saying has new meaning in a new century: For your freedom and ours.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:37 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Jolanta Kwasniewska, wife of President Kwasniewski. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of President Kwasniewski.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a State Dinner Honoring President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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