Office of the Provost

Wilson Hall, Room 205
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, MI 48309-4486
(location map)
(248) 370-2190

Varner Vitality Lecture Series

Varner Vitality Lecture Series

The Varner Vitality Lecture Series is named in honor of Oakland’s first chancellor, Durward “Woody” Varner. The series aims to energize and sustain the highest academic and scholarly aspirations of the University community. This lecture is sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs. Previous speakers include Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former president of India; Dr. Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State; Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned primatologist; Bill Nye, scientist, author and TV host; and most recently, Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The event is free and open to the public.  For more information on the series, please call (248) 370-2190.

2019 Varner Vitality

President Lech Walesa
Former President of Poland
Friday, November 15, 7 p.m.
Oakland Center, Founders Ballrooms
This event is free and open to the public. 
Please RSVP for this event here

Lech Walesa burst into the world spotlight in 1980 during the infamous Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland. For his heroic efforts, Walesa was named “Man of the Year” by Time magazine, The Financial Times, The London Observer, Die Welt, Die Zeit, L’Express, and Le Soir. On December 9, 1990, he became its first democratically elected President, winning more than 74 percent of the votes cast. His term in office set Poland firmly on the path to becoming a free market democracy. Through his unwavering commitment, Walesa made Poland a model of economic and political reform for the rest of Eastern Europe. He now heads the Lech Walesa Institute whose aim is to advance the ideals of democracy and free market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.

The Varner Vitality Lecture Series is an annual event presented by the Division of Academic Affairs and is named in honor of Oakland’s first chancellor, Durward “Woody” Varner. The series aims to energize and sustain the highest academic and scholarly aspirations of the University community.

The presenting sponsor of the 2019 Varner Vitality Lecture Series is the Polish-American Federal Credit Union along with Oakland University's Division of Academic Affairs, the Office of the President, The Center for Civic Engagement, and Communications and Marketing. 

About the Speaker

Lech Walesa burst into the world spotlight in 1980 during the infamous Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland. Workers, incensed by an increase in prices set by the Communist government, were demanding the right to organize free and independent trade unions.

On August 14, Walesa, an electrician who had long been active in the underground labor movement, arrived at the barricaded shipyard just as the dispirited workers were on the verge of abandoning their strike. Scaling the shipyard walls, he delivered a stirring speech from atop a bulldozer. Revitalized by his passion, the strike spread to factories across the nation. Christened “Solidarity,” the strike became a social revolution. Walesa entered into negotiations with the government, convincing it to grant legal recognition to Solidarity and the right to form independent unions and to strike to workers. This became the Gdansk Agreement, which Walesa signed on August 31.

For his heroic efforts, Walesa was named “Man of the Year” by Time magazine, The Financial Times, The London Observer, Die Welt, Die Zeit, L’Express, and Le Soir. Over the next 18 months, however, relations between Solidarity and the government became progressively worse until, on December 13, 1981, the Polish government declared martial law. It suspended the activities of all unions and arrested thousands of Solidarity members, including Walesa. In the fall of 1982, the government officially outlawed Solidarity.

Walesa was released that same fall. Under his leadership, Solidarity continued to exist as an underground organization. Celebrated worldwide as a symbol of the hope for freedom, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. For the next five years, the country became marked more and more by chaos and labor unrest. Acknowledging that it could no longer control the country, the government re-legalized Solidarity and invited it to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government. In the resulting election, Solidarity won almost every contest.

Through his unwavering commitment, Walesa made Poland a model of economic and political reform for the rest of Eastern Europe to follow and earned it the honor of receiving one of the first invitations to join an expanded NATO. He now heads the Lech Walesa Institute whose aim is to advance the ideals of democracy and free market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.

Past Speakers
YearSpeaker
2003J. Craig Venter
2006Susan Love
2008Madeline Albright
2009A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
2011Thomas Friedman
2012Steven Pinker
2013Jane Goodall
2014Daniel J. Levitin
2015Morten Lauridsen
2016Bill Nye
2017Doris Kearns Goodwin
2019Alan Weisman
2019Lech Walesa