Governor Quinn, who had accepted an invitation to speak, notified event coordinators hours before that he was unable to appear. Alas, he had surprised organizers when he accepted their invitation in the first place. It would have been an awkward scene had the governor honored his commitment. Due to the event organizers’ conservative bona fides (and because the group exclusively supports GOP candidates this cycle), Quinn’s appearance may have validated the notion that Walesa’s struggles in the 80s were comparable to that of conservatives in Illinois. The event’s strong rhetorical connection between the two was not lost on the audience.
During a question and answer session, Walesa was predictably asked to provide his opinion as to Illinois’s reputation for corruption and government expansion by Democrats. Ever the statesman, Walesa refused to take the political bait, and his answer reflected his unwillingness to verbally jump into the fray.
Walesa is not a regular fixture on the American political circuit. In fact, his vocal endorsement for Adam Andrzejewski in the gubernatorial Republican primary was the first for an American office-seeker (Andrzejewski is now founder and CEO of For the Good of Illinois). During a January 2009 trip to Chicago for Andrzejewski, Walesa surprised onlookers in an interview when he decried that the U.S. was moving in the direction of socialism with its bank bailouts and bulging social welfare programs.
Walesa’s visit underscores the weight that Illinois conservatives are placing on these midterm elections. Analogizing Soviet tyranny to the current onslaught of liberal big-governance was no stretch for the conservative crowd. Walesa — whose name is mentioned alongside Thatcher, Reagan, and Pope John Paul II as delivering the knockout punch to Soviet communism — departed by urging the crowd to “elect well,” a thinly veiled offer of good tidings to an audience hoping for change this election season. Never known for outwardly taking partisan sides in the U.S., Walesa’s very presence at the decidedly conservative fundraiser told the story.