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From the Editor-in-Chief
October 1, 2010   
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In a country as deeply divided politically as Poland, the president has a different mission to pursue than the government. While day-to-day domestic and international politics occupies a prominent place among the president’s responsibilities, it should remain in the background. The main focus should be on strategic planning and forward thinking.

The president faces an important though simple question: What is the most important for the people and the country in the long term—a time frame exceeding his five-year term in office, and even spanning a whole generation; what can the president do to prepare people and the country for the challenges of the future?

At the same time, the constitution imposes many day-to-day duties on the president. These include contributing to the development of the legal system and international policy, representing the country in international relations, stabilizing domestic politics and ensuring continuity, balancing social interests and cushioning conflicts. The president is also expected to guarantee that the government’s policies will not be subordinated to the interests of a single party.

Chosen in a general election, the president carries the burden of social expectations. What then should be the main priorities on his agenda?

In the two inter-war decades the top priority for the president was rebuilding the nation’s identity. A multiethnic country reborn after 120 years of being ripped apart by three European powers had to regain its unity in all areas of life, chiefly in the minds of its citizens. Today, the president has a similar mission to accomplish. The way people vote during elections shows that society is deeply divided into two almost equal parts. In simple terms, one part seems to be open-minded while the other seems to be resistant to fresh ideas, one bold and the other fearful, one wanting the new and the other wanting the old. Former president Lech Wałęsa liked to compare Polish society to a car and a car cannot be in forward and reverse gear at the same time. A good, consistent development plan for the country cannot be created unless an overwhelming majority accepts it. To ensure such a majority, it is necessary to bridge the divide between these two parts of society. To begin with, mutual misunderstanding and hostility among Poles need to be reduced. No political party is interested in doing that because they benefit—in the form of votes—from divisions rather than similarities. Another reason is that the process of building bridges in society is a long process, exceeding one parliamentary term. That makes it the mission for the president; his main mission, in my view.

Another priority for the president should be education and science. There is agreement around the world that the development of education is societies’ most important key to security and prosperity. Education opens the door to cutting-edge technology and to the world of Nobel Prizes. The president should encourage the development of science and education so that Poland’s aspirations can be met.
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