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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 1, 2009
America in Poland
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Letter from the American ambassador in Warsaw:
July 1, 2009   
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Warm greetings to the readers of The Warsaw Voice on the occasion of the 233rd anniversary of American Independence! I appreciate being asked again to write this letter for the annual American supplement of this paper.

This is a year of many significant anniversaries in the shared history of Poland and the United States of America, not least of which is the 90th anniversary of U.S.-Polish diplomatic relations. The United States was the first country to recognize the newly independent Poland in January 1919 when it regained its freedom after World War I. This was no accident, since U.S. President Woodrow Wilson led the effort to restore Poland's independence after over 130 years of partition-an effort he first put forward in his famous Fourteen Points speech in 1918. President Wilson undertook this mission not only because he believed in the principle of self determination and because his friend, the famous Polish pianist, composer and statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski spoke persuasively on behalf of his countrymen. The President also recognized the historic debt of gratitude the United States owed to Poles for our own independence.

As many Americans recall, two Polish soldiers served as generals in the American War of Independence: Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pułaski. Pułaski, hailed as the Father of the U.S. Cavalry, gave his life in the Battle of Savannah. General Kościuszko applied his brilliance as an engineer in the construction of key fortifications, including designing West Point on the Hudson-to this day the site of the U.S. Military Academy. Kościuszko became a U.S. citizen during his lifetime. The U.S. Senate passed a resolution to confer citizenship on Pułaski posthumously two years ago. The House of Representatives is currently considering a companion resolution with 27 sponsors.

The U.S.-Polish common history began with the arrival of the first Polish settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, 401 years ago (where they became the first non-English colonists to vote in local elections). The ties deepened with Polish support in our struggle for independence and with Poland producing the first democratic constitution in Europe only months after the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1789. Unfortunately, Poland had already suffered the first of three partitions and soon disappeared altogether from the map, preventing the establishment of formal diplomatic ties until it was re-established in 1919.

Since that time there were many milestones, with both celebratory and sad anniversaries falling in this year. This year we must look back soberly at the start of World War II 70 years ago when the Germans and Soviets invaded Poland, and the bitter travails of the Warsaw Uprising 65 years ago this August. Fortunately, the positives greatly outnumber the negatives: 50 years ago the Fulbright program in Poland began, 20 years ago Poland held the first partially free elections in the Warsaw Pact and started the movement that ended communism throughout the former Soviet satellite states, 10 years ago Poland joined NATO, and five years ago Poland joined the European Union.

Poland and the United States of America stand as strong allies, with a long, proud tradition of friendship and shared values. We are working together in the region and around the world encouraging the spread of democracy and human rights. We share strong bilateral trade and many U.S. companies continue to invest in Poland. Educational and cultural exchanges continue robustly between our countries.

As I conclude five years as Ambassador to Poland, I look back on a wonderful time visiting all parts of Poland-over 170 cities, towns, and gminy (local districts). My family and I will always be "part Polish" as a result of this fabulous experience. We will return as tourists. As we celebrate the USA's 233rd birthday among great friends, we remind ourselves that we have no better friends than the Polish people.

Victor Ashe
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