The Woodrow Wilson Center, the Ratiu Center for Democracy, and the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation are pleased to announce that Adam Michnik is the 2009 Recipient of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award.
Historian, essayist, political publicist, Michnik was one of the leading organizers of the illegal, democratic opposition in Poland between 1968-1989. Michnik is a political activist and former member of Poland's first democratic parliament.
The Ion Ratiu Democracy Award will be presented at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, on 3 December 2009, during the 5th edition of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture (IRDL). An introduction by Zbigniew Brzezinski, statesman and former US National Security Adviser, will precede Adam Michnik's address. Registration details from www.wilsoncenter.org/ratiu/ Announcing the news, Nicolae Ratiu, Chairman of the Ratiu Foundation, said: "2009 is a year full of significance, as we celebrate 20 years from the fall of the Iron Curtain and the beginning of the democracy process in Eastern Europe. The revolutions that led to the fall of the communist dictatorships have been velvet, full of solidarity or, tragically, accompanied by bloodshed. Through his tireless campaigning and ability to withstand the pressures of a strong oppressive apparatus, Adam Michnik ensured together with his colleagues in the Solidarity movement the transition from communism to democracy in Poland, and proved that, in the end, the pen has been mightier than the sword. By continuing to campaign for transparency, accountability, and freedom of speech, Adam Michnik chose to serve not only his country, but also the promotion of democratic behaviour all over the world. In order to celebrate his achievements and to salute his efforts that lead to 1989 being the best year for democracy, the Ratiu Foundation, together with its Board of Trustees and Advisors, have decided to honour Adam Michnik and offer him the 2009 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award. We are all looking forward to the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture in December, an event that will crown the celebrations of the 30-years anniversary of the establishment of the Ratiu Foundation in London, in 1979, by my parents, Ion and Elisabeth Ratiu."
For over 40 years Adam Michnik has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to securing the rights and liberties of the Polish people and to the values of democracy. He was a founding member of the Komitet Obrony Robotnikw (Committee for the Defense of Workers) in 1976 and a prominent activist during the Solidarity movement of the 1980s. He participated in the Round Table Talks of 1989 and was later elected to Poland's first non-communist parliament, where he served from 1989-1991. Michnik continues to promote democratic values as the Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest daily newspaper. While he retired from active political life in 1991, Michnik remains one of Poland's most prominent and influential people.
The purpose of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The lecture strives to enrich the intellectual environment in which ideas about democracy and democratic change circulate, both within and beyond Washington. Organised and sponsored by Woodrow Wilson Center (Washington DC), the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation (London) and the Ratiu Center for Democracy (Turda, Romania), the event expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician and intellectual as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide.
The 2007 Ratiu Democracy Lecture was awarded to Anatoli Mikhailov of Belorussia, who discussed Democracy as a Challenge. The 2008 Ratiu Democracy Lecture was awarded to Eleonora Cercavschi of the Republic of Moldova, who discussed children's rights and education. Previous winners of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award include Saad El-Din Ibrahim (Egypt) in 2006 and Sergio Aguayo (Mexico) in 2005. The 2009 Lecture will be held by the winner of the award, Adam Michnik.
Ion Ratiu (1917-2000) was the most outspoken and consistent voice of opposition to Nicolae Ceausescu, whose regime he opposed for years from London as the democratically elected leader of the Free Romanian Movement. Journalist, broadcaster and author, he was also a successful businessman in shipping and property, while simultaneously operating as a kind of Scarlet Pimpernel, assisting in the rescue of many democrats from Ceausescu's dictatorship. After 50 years in exile he returned to his homeland in 1990 to contest the presidency. Although he won a seat in Parliament, and was to serve his country for his last ten years, his failure to win the presidency was a disappointment to many. Even nowadays, on Romanian streets, Ion Ratiu is remembered fondly, often referred to as "the best president Romania never had".
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