This is a country that made a prisoner a president … that went from foreign domination to the proud and independent nation you are today. And now, for both our nations, the challenge is to be worthy of this legacy as we find a way forward. The false gods of the all-powerful state claim the allegiance of a lonely few. It is for us, in this generation and beyond, to show all the world what free people and free economies can achieve for the good of all.
Perhaps because here in Poland centralized control is no distant memory, you have brought a special determination to securing a free and prosperous economy. When the Soviet Empire breathed its last, Poland's economy was in a state of perpetual crisis. When economists analyzed it from abroad, one heard talk of the prospect of starvation in major cities.
But from the depths of those dark times, this nation's steady rise is a shining example of the prosperity that economic opportunity can bring. Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls, and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility, and international trade. As a result, your economy has experienced positive growth in each of the last twenty years. In that time, you have doubled the size of your economy. The private sector has gone from a mere 15 percent of the economy to 65 percent. And while other nations fell into recession in recent years, you weathered the storm and continued to flourish.
When economists speak of Poland today, it is not to lament chronic problems, but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe.
Yesterday, one of your leaders shared with me an economic truth that has been lost in much of the world: "It is simple. You don't borrow what you cannot pay back."
The world should pay close attention to the transformation of Poland's economy. A march toward economic liberty and smaller government has meant a march toward higher living standards, a strong military that defends liberty at home and abroad, and an important and growing role on the international stage.
Rather than heeding the false promise of a government-dominated economy, Poland sought to stimulate innovation, attract investment, expand trade, and live within its means. Your success today is a reminder that the principles of free enterprise can propel an economy and transform a society.
At a time of such difficulty and doubt throughout Europe, Poland's economic transformation over these past 20 years is a fitting turn in the story of your country. In the 1980s, when other nations doubted that political tyranny could ever be faced down or overcome, the answer was, "Look to Poland." And today, as some wonder about the way forward out of economic recession and fiscal crisis, the answer once again is "Look to Poland".
It is not surprising that a people who waited so long, and endured so much, for the sake of liberty, are today enjoying liberty to the fullest.
Poland has no greater friend and ally than the people of the United States.
You helped us win our independence… your bravery inspired the allies in the Second World War… you helped bring down the Iron Curtain… and your soldiers fought side-by-side with ours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have fought and died together.
We share a common cause, tested by time, inseparable by foe.
In times of trouble and in times of peace, we march together.
God bless you, God bless America, and God bless the great nation of Poland.