Observations

By Michael A. Szymanski

This issue we report on the activities of the Polish American Congress at its meeting recently held in Chicago. Of particular importance in my mind are the remarks of Judge Aurelia Pucinski to the PAC Council of National Directors delivered in Chicago, IL, on May 17, 2012 which we reproduce elsewhere in this issue. In recent years there has been controversy over the proper role of the PAC now that Poland is once again a well-established and healthy independent nation. As judge Pucinski says, “it takes more than a name to be Polish.” She speaks of committing to the goals of Polonia and notes how those goals have changed over the years. In the past, she notes, the goals were easier to see: During WWII the protection of Poland and her refugees, during Solidarity to help Walesa and Solidarity fight communism, and after Solidarity to help Poland’s economy. Now, judge Pucinski poses the “problem.” What is the goal of Polonia today? She says: “…having articulated a ‘Polish Agenda’ for so long we have forgotten that it is the American agenda that makes it possible.”

The current debate over whether Polonia in general and the PAC in particular should take a role in calling for the further investigation of the Smolensk disaster or in the matter of the TV Twarms licensing dispute in Poland demonstrates a need to be clear about what needs to be accomplished and how the PAC can be effective and do the most good, but in discussing goals, the message that comes through is a warning and a call for action in a realm where it is too easy to be complacent and presumptive of Polonia’s influence and importance. What Judge Pucinski says is that the PAC and Polonia need to focus on, foster and safeguard their own strength if they are to accomplish anything once any other goals are defined. It’s kind of like the emergency safety instructions you get before you take off on an airplane flight: if the emergency oxygen equipment deploys, put your own oxygen mask on first, and only then proceed to assist those around you… Polonia must build (or re-build) her strength in order to accomplish the kind of landmark achievements we have reached or helped accomplish in the past. One necessary way to do that is to be an active and highly visible voting population. Another way to do it is to work together on the things we can agree on as common goals, and try to minimize the impact of the things we disagree on among ourselves. In calling for Polonia to “take charge of our destiny,” Judge Pucinski tells us to take care of ourselves so that we can be in a position to help others as well as ourselves. That puts me in mind of the proud Polish slogan that applies to so much of our history: “For your freedom and ours.” Poland’s engagement in Afghanistan is only the latest in a long line of situations where that motto holds true.

 

 

 

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