"The spring 2012 meeting of the Polish American Congress' Council of National
Directors once again confirmed the energy and strength of the organization in
addressing leading issues of the day," said PAC President Frank Spula, after
conclusion of the May 17-19 meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
Spula pointed out that the delegates, who represented the PACís 29 state
divisions and 18 national organizations, addressed a wide range of sensitive
issues in American politics and U.S.-Poland relations that are important to
Polish Americans. "At the end of the day," he said, "there was a broad consensus
as to the organizationís mission and programs."
That purpose and mission were eloquently articulated by Illinois Appellate
Court Justice Aurelia Pucinski, who called for Polish Americans to "take charge
of our destiny" and "set our goal to have the largest per capita turnout in the
next election." She reminded us that it is the "American agenda" that makes a
"Polish agenda" possible. "We cannot leverage for ANY good to be done for Poland
without first committing to the cause of democracy right here. We cannot
leverage for ANY good in our own community without first committing to be active
in our own democracy," she told the Councilís opening dinner.
A similar message about the need to be politically active and vote was
delivered the next day at lunch by Cook County Commissioner and former candidate
for the U.S. House of Representatives, John A. Fritchey, whose district has many
ethnic groups, including Poles, competing for services and benefits.
Anticipating the need for Polish Americans to be active in the 2012 election
cycle, the Council of National Directors had at its October 2011 meeting passed
an action program for increasing voting and candidacy for office by Polish
Building on the scholarly analysis of Americaís demographic and linguistic
future by Vice President for American Affairs, Dean Anthony J. Bajdek, the
Council reaffirmed the importance of ramping up efforts to gain passage of U.S.
legislation (S.2233 and H.R. 5741, Jobs Originated through Launching Travel or
JOLT Act, and related S.2046 and H.R.3855, Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security
and Reform Act) which would facilitate Polandís entry into the Visa Waiver
Program and visa-free tourist travel by Polish citizens to the United States. In
the meantime, the PAC called on the U.S. State Department to change their
policies in such a way that any visa refusal results in reduction or full refund
of paid fees.
Looking further at the American scene, the Council deemed that the mandate
imposed on the Catholic Church and other religious organizations is an attack on
religious freedom in general and the Catholic Church in particular, and
expressed full support for positions of the United States Conference of Bishops
as expressed in their statement from February and March 2012. The Council also
expressed strong dismay with passage by the House of Representatives of a bill
which would discontinue the U.S. Census Bureauís American Community Survey, the
sole source of official ethnic identity data, and called on the Senate, the
Secretary of Commerce, and President Obama to ensure continued collection of
this vital information.
The Council also addressed two Polish issues - investigation of the April
2010 Smolensk air crash and TV Trwamís application for digital broadcast rights
- that have evoked widespread interest and debate among Polish Americans and
Poles living in the United States. Recognizing that Poland is the sovereign,
independent, democratic country for which the PAC had so long worked, the
Councilís resolutions look to the government of Poland to resolve these issues
and encourage it to look to solutions that expand democracy and diffuse discord.
"For me," President Frank Spula told the gathered Directors, "the disaster at
Smolensk Severny Airfield on April 10, 2012 which resulted in the death of
former President of Poland Lech Kaczynski and 95 other high government and
cultural officials, including nine Polish/NATO generals, was a very emotional
and personal loss. Almost to the end, there were plans for me to be part of the
delegation to Smolensk and Katyn. We were far advanced in plans for me and the
PAC to host President Lech Kaczynski and his wife in Chicago two weeks later.
Many of those officials who perished were close working associates and friends.
It was a deeply felt loss."
The resolution passed by the Council of National Directors with respect to
the investigation of the Smolensk disaster takes its lead from the United States
government. It notes that the U.S. government has clearly stated that it will
defer to the Polish government in the decision to call for an independent
international commission to investigate the disaster and that the United States
government will provide available evidence upon request by the Polish
government. The Polish American Congress suggests that the government of the
Republic of Poland take the initiative to convene an independent investigation.
A presentation by legal counsel about applicable Polish laws and
administrative legal processes laid the groundwork for the Councilís discussion
of issues surrounding the application by TV Trwam, a broadcasting service which
expresses Roman Catholic and conservative opinion, for terrestrial digital
broadcasting frequency. The Councilís resolution stressed the importance of
freedom of the press as an indispensible component of a democratic republic.
Discussion of the PACís Polish Agenda was opened by Vice President for Polish
Affairs, Bozena Kaminski, who reporting on her three visits to Poland, visit to
Lithuania, and other activities since October 2011. At Chairman Personís
invitation, she testified before Polandís Senate Committee on Polonia and
answered questions about the PAC and Polish organizations in the United States,
and also met twice with the Chairman Lipinski of the Sejm (Parliament) Committee
on Polonia. She met with the new President of the Institute of National
Remembrance (IPN), Dr. Lukasz Kaminski, to express PACís continued support and
cooperation with IPN. At her invitation he subsequently visited Chicago and met
with PAC President Spula. During her visits she also called on various Polish
government officials of both major political parties to express PACís concerns
about Polandís policies affecting Polonia, including the U.S. Visa Waiver
Program, the signed Social Security Agreement between Poland and the U.S., the
Smolensk tragedy investigation and the TV Trwam dispute.
At Kaminskiís invitation, Jaroslaw Narkiewicz, a member of Lithuaniaís Seimas
(Parliament) and a regional Vice President of the Congress of Poles in
Lithuania, was a guest at the meetings and briefed National Directors on the
situation of the Polish community in Lithuania. The PAC reiterated its October,
2011 resolution in support of the rights of the autochthonous Polish population
of Lithuania, and called on the governments of the United States and Poland, and
the European Commission, to take necessary actions to protect basic human rights
and fundamental freedom of the Polish minority in Lithuania, especially
The Council of National Directors concluded its sessions on May 19 with an
all-day workshop, "Enhancing US-Poland Collaboration in Small Business
Initiatives." The workshop was co-organized by the Trade & Investment Section of
the Polish Embassy in Washington, the Polish American Congress, the Polish
National Alliance, and the Polish Chamber of Commerce. PAC Directors were joined
by 3 Honorary Counsels of Poland, representatives of Polish-American trade
chambers in Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, and Seattle, the US-Poland
Business Council, the Illinois State Office in Warsaw, and senior officials of
Polish economic agencies and regions. Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of
Commerce for International Trade, Adam Wilczewski, represented the Obama
Administration and delivered the luncheon keynote. The day was marked by intense
networking among the 100 representatives of participating organizations, and
concluded with a dinner hosted by PAC/PNA President Spula at the Copernicus
Resolutions adopted by the Council of National Directors and keynote address by Justice
Pucinski are available here.
For further information contact:
Dr. Susanne S. Lotarski
Vice President for Public Affairs
Polish American Congress
Tel/Fax: (301) 654-9359
Dr. Barbara B. Andersen
Director of Research
Polish American Congress
Tel: (202) 296-6955