In addition to the Members of the Board of Directors and the Foundation’s team, the ceremony was attended by Minister of Administration and Digitalization Michał Boni, Chief of the Presidential Chancellery Jacek Michałowski, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, and Professor Leszek Balcerowicz.
During the meeting, conducted by PAFF President Jerzy Koźmiński, Minister Jacek Michałowski read out a letter from President Bronisław Komorowski to John P. Birkelund.
The letter reads: „(…)You have managed the Foundation’s Board of Directors ever since its inception. Moreover, it was largely owing to your efforts that the Foundation was established. Looking at its great achievements, you must feel both proud and happy. I wish to offer my warmest thanks to you today for all that the organization has done under your leadership to benefit my country and to foster good, friendly Polish-American relations.(…) The Polish commitment to freedom has cost us a great deal of blood and suffering, but at the same time it has allowed us to survive the partitions of Poland, occupations by foreign powers and the communist era. And it was the very same love of freedom that made our two nations – the Polish and the American ones – establish such close and lasting ties despite the geographical distance between us. But these ties would not be there but for the people who translate lofty ideas into concrete actions. And you, Mr. Chairman, are one of these people. Showing commitment to the cause of the Polish freedom and democracy for so many years, you have rendered the best possible service to the Polish-American friendship. Beginning from 2000, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation has promoted democratic transformation, a free market economy and civil society in Poland, while at the same time sharing the Polish experience with other countries in the region. Earlier on, it was the Polish-American Enterprise Fund that had successfully fostered the development of the Polish economy. The Foundation’s programs have made it possible for many young people to seek educational advancement and have offered support to young leaders and local communities. The Foundation provides motivation to develop one’s own involvement and enterprise, and on the other hand it teaches how to share one’s success with others. Credit for the philosophy guiding the Foundation’s activities, based on respect for the individuality of the beneficiaries, is largely due to you, Mr. Chairman. You have in effect mapped out the Foundation’s activities for over twelve years. Today is the day to offer you our heartfelt thanks for all these achievements. There will remain in Poland multiple testimonies to your commitment and your goodwill. The Republic of Poland will never forget what you and the Foundation under your leadership have done for our country. We do hope that, being a tried and true friend of Poland, you will be a frequent guest here in the land on the Vistula River even after you have passed on you duties as the Foundation’s Chairman. You are always welcome here.”
In his address, John Birkelund called the Foundation’s origins, and emphasized that it would not have been possible to establish it were it not for the success of the Polish-American Enterprise Fund, whose President was Robert Faris, currently a Member of the PAFF’s Board of Directors. The Chairman of the Board also highlighted the vital role played by Professor Zbigniew Brzeziński as well as the late Lane Kirkland and Nicholas Rey in establishing the Foundation. He emphasized the enormous contribution to the success and development of the Fund and the Foundation made by the Members of the Boards of Directors, both Americans and Poles. He stated with a firm conviction that Poland is a splendid country, and that the accomplishments of the Fund and the Foundation have been facilitated by both the support of the Polish authorities and the activities of many Polish entrepreneurs, managers as well as leaders and volunteers of non-governmental organizations. On a personal note, he said that the last 20 years, during which he had been involved in the operations of both institutions, had been an exceptional experience for him and made him feel like a Pole at heart.
In 1995, as Chairman of the Polish-American Enterprise Fund’s Board of Directors, John P. Birkelund was decorated with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Lech Wałęsa and in 1999 with the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski.
On May 18th, the PAFF’s Board of Directors elected Andrew Nagorski as its new Chairman. Andrew Nagorski has been on the Foundation’s Board of Directors since 2008. He is also Vice President and Director of Public Policy at the EastWest Institute in New York. Prior to that, for many years he worked for Newsweek International as Senior Editor and a correspondent in, among other countries, Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw and Berlin.