He was born in Warsaw in 1928. In 1938, he went with his family to Montreal, where his father Tadeusz Brzeziński, a lawyer and diplomat, took the post of the consul general.
Zbigniew studied political science and economics at McGill University in Montreal, and subsequently received a doctorate at Harvard University. He was the director of the Institute for International Change at Columbia University, New York. He was a professor at American universities, including Harvard University, Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University from 1960 to 1989. Over the last three decades he was involved in the work of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington D.C.
As an expert on communism, in the 60s he was active in John F. Kennedy’s and later Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaigns. From 1977 to 1981 he was the National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter; he had a strong influence on US foreign policy, and attached particular attention to human rights in Eastern Europe, which was an important factor in strengthening the dissident centers in the countries of that region. He played a critical role in building American support for the Polish “Solidarity” movement and in preventing a Warsaw Pact armed forces invasion of Poland in 1980.
Over all those years he was strongly involved in Polish affairs, cooperating with leaders of the Polish-American community, remaining in close contact with Pope John Paul II, supporting Radio Free Europe and working together with Jan Nowak-Jeziorański.
After communism was overthrown, an effort to which he significantly contributed, he actively supported the transformation in Poland, as well as in other countries of the region. Thanks to his knowledge, experience and contacts he was able to win the support of the United States authorities for Polish reforms. He was the advocate of establishing the Stabilization Fund, reducing Polish foreign debt, as well as introducing American programs of expert support for the development of a market economy in Poland. He was among the initiators of establishing the Polish-American Enterprise Fund and became a member of its Board of Directors. Since 1990 the Fund supported almost 100,000 Polish entrepreneurs. In 1999, the Fund was presented with the Special Economic Award of the President of Poland for “for its significant contribution to the development of the Polish economy”. After the Enterprise Fund had completed its mission, Professor Brzeziński made efforts to ensure that the money generated by the Fund continued to benefit Polish society. As a result, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation was established and launched its operations in 2000.
Zbigniew Brzeziński played an extraordinary role in safeguarding security for a free and democratic Poland. He actively worked for NATO enlargement and Poland’s membership in the Alliance; it is, to a great extent, thanks to his tireless efforts that Poland today belongs to the Euro-Atlantic community of countries sharing the same values.
For his immense contribution to development of Polish-American relations he was presented with the Order of White Eagle by President Lech Wałęsa in 1995. Before that, in 1981, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States.
Professor Brzeziński’s contributions to the Polish-American Freedom Foundation cannot be overstated. He was deeply involved in establishing and overseeing the Foundation, and as a member of the Board of Directors he always helped us with his remarkable knowledge and experience. We could always count on his wisdom, advice and friendship. We will miss him deeply.
„An American whose heart stayed in Poland” – as he wrote about himself in the introduction to his book „ Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977–1981″. He will always be remembered as such by us.
We extend our profound sympathy to his family.
Andrew Nagorski, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Jerzy Koźmiński, President
The Polish-American Freedom Foundation Board of Directors and Staff