It was a perfect political storm.
Have we forgotten about the peril of worldwide communism? Have we forgotten about the brutality and inhumanity of it? Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, after his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1974, gave a speech here in America called "A Warning to the West." He said: "It is precisely because I am the friend of the United States, precisely because my speech is prompted by friendship, that I have come to tell you: 'My friends, I'm not going to tell you sweet words. The situation in the world is not just dangerous, it isn't just threatening, it is catastrophic.'"
The pope traveled to Poland several times, the first in 1979. In 1980, Polish tradesmen began agitating for workers' rights, and, in September of that year, formed a fledgling union called Solidarity. They chose, as their leader, an electrician named Lech Walesa. The pope received Walesa at the Vatican in 1981. Two years later, the pope returned to Poland for a second visit. Walesa, who remarkably later became president of Poland, said that Pope John Paul II deserves "the greater credit" for the end of communism in his country. "At the moment when the pope was elected," said Walesa, "I think I had, at the most, 20 people that were around me and supported me -- and there were 40 million Polish people in the country. However . . . a year after [the pope's] visit to Poland, I had 10 million supporters and suddenly we had so many people willing to join the movement. . . . I compare this to the miracle of the multiplication of bread in the desert."
Enter in 1980 President Ronald Reagan, who also had a difficult life. Reagan's father was an alcoholic and an unsuccessful salesman. His father could not hold down a job, causing the family to move numerous times. His mother was a loyal housewife and became Reagan's role model. She taught him about compassion for other people's shortcomings, including those of his own father.
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