The breakup of the Soviet Union was preceded by a growing Western awareness of the sufferings the Polish people endured under an oppressive communist regime. Few people were as influential in bringing global attention to their condition as Lawrence W. Reed, president emeritus of the Mackinac Center. In recognition of his important contribution to Polish freedom, Reed will be presented with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. This is the highest honor Poland awards to a foreigner. Previous recipients include President Ronald Reagan and British intellectual Sir Roger Scruton.
After visiting communist Poland in 1986, Reed began publishing articles about Polish heroes who were leading an underground resistance. While he was at the airport to return home from that trip, he was arrested and detained. Officials searched and seized his possessions before expelling him from the country. Their actions were likely prompted by a speech he gave at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, in which he said a revolution was coming.
Reed returned to Poland several times after its communist regime collapsed, and he continued to forge relationships with freedom leaders.
The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, notes Reed’s dedication to the fight for freedom. “In a contemporary free world, Poland has few such dedicated and influential supporters and enthusiasts,” said Duda. “For this long-term commitment to freedom and to Poland, the free Republic of Poland has yet to thank him — until now.”
In his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction,” Reed included several chapters on some of the Polish heroes he met during that initial visit. In addition to being a prolific writer about Poland, Reed also raised funds to translate Milton and Rose Friedman’s “Free to Choose” into Polish. He later organized a program that translated and published the works of F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises and other prominent free-market thinkers for a Polish audience.
Reed’s heroic actions have left a lasting mark on the Polish people. Few have done more to assist the fight for liberty, not only in Poland, but around the globe