I had the great privilege last year of attending a lecture by Lech Walesa in one of the Universities in Manila. An electrician who became a union leader; a union leader who became a prisoner; a prisoner who brought down an evil empire and became President of Poland.
Usually, here in the Philippines, the presidents become prisoners only after their term of office when their dodgy dealings are uncovered, so it was a breath of fresh air to hear from a man who understands authentic leadership and what it costs. Its essence being service; sacrifice; suffering and faith in God. The very things that none of the listening students could possibly learn in their courses or with their background as the country’s elite.
We heard about those turbulent times in Poland firsthand, how when the trade union Solidarity only had a handful of members, the new Pope John Paul II visited and overnight it had a million new members, the strikes, imprisonment, struggles and eventual victory and the aftermath and rebuilding of a nation. His leadership was earned, tested; proven.
What is also unusual in a world leader is his humility and simplicity, he gives all credit to God for the miracle of their liberation from communism, through the hand of his friend the late Pope. His many awards and honouree degrees he drops off at the shrine of Our Lady in Czestochowa acknowledging her part too.
Now grey haired he travels the world as a mentor to many with a deadly sense of humour (the translator took a full minute to compose himself before he could deliver some of his jokes).