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Democracy: Traps and Question Marks

Adam Michnik, political activist, retired member of Poland's first democratic parliament, and Editor in Chief, Gazeta Wyborcza; Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter

Date & Time

Dec. 3, 2009
3:00pm – 5:00pm

Democracy: Traps and Question Marks

Adam Michnik, recipient of the 2009 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, will speak on Democracy: Traps and Question Marks. The Honorable Zbigniew Brzezinski will provide introductory remarks.

Adam Michnik is the Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest daily newspaper. Historian, essayist and political publicist, Michnik was one of the leading organizers of the illegal, democratic opposition in Poland between 1968-1989. He was a founding member of the Komitet Obrony Robotnikow (Committee for the Defense of Workers) in 1976 and a prominent activist during the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. He participated in the Round Table Talks of 1989, and was later elected to Poland's first non-communist parliament, where he served from 1989-1991. Michnik is the author of several books, including Letters from Prison and Other Essays (1987), The Church and the Left (1993) and Letters from Freedom: Post Cold War Realities and Perspectives (1998).

The Honorable Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Advisor to United States President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. In 1981, Dr. Brzezinski was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in the normalization of U.S.-China relations and for his contributions to the human rights and national security policies of the United States. Currently, he is a counselor and trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In addition, Brzezinski is a Professor of American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. His latest book, America And The World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy, was coauthored with Brent Scowcroft.

The purpose of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The lecture strives to enrich the intellectual environment in which ideas about democracy and democratic change circulate, both within and beyond Washington. Sponsored by the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation (London, UK) and the Ratiu Center for Democracy (Turda, Romania), the event expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician and intellectual as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide. The 2007 Ratiu Democracy Lecture was awarded to Anatoli Mikhailov of Belorussia, who discussed Democracy as a Challenge. The 2008 Ratiu Democracy Lecture was awarded to Eleonora Cercavschi of the Republic of Moldova, who discussed children's rights and education. The Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture at the Wilson Center is chaired by Christian F. Ostermann.

The Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture is made possible by the generous support of the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation. This year's Lecture received additional support from D.H.L. and the Embassy of Romania.

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History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program uses history to improve understanding of important global dynamics, trends in international relations, and American foreign policy.  Read more

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The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

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