Let’s Get Ready for 2018
2017 marks the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. The entry of the United States decisively tipped the scales of the conflict in favor of the Allies over the Central Powers. America’s nineteen months in the fight brought to an end a war that had already dragged on for three years.
The results of World War I changed the map of Europe. Out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire arose new nations: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, for example. Out of those ashes also was reborn an old nation: Poland, 123 years after it had been last carved up by Austria, Prussia, and Russia.
While 2017 marks an important anniversary for the United States, we should also not forget about the significance of 1918. 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the recovery of Poland’s independence. On November 11, 1918, a new Poland returned to the maps of Europe.
1918 is also the year in which President Woodrow Wilson published his famous “14 Points,” his map for what America sought to achieve in the peace it was winning at the price of American blood. One of those points was a free Poland with access to the sea.
Political correctness in the United States has led to a certain revision of Wilson’s reputation, but the 28th president remains a star in Poland because of his advocacy for Polish freedom. What is the greatest paradox, of course, is that while Wilson eventually promoted Polish freedom, he was attacked in the 1912 election for anti-Polish and anti-Slavic sentiments.
Poland’s centennial of recovered independence and the one hundredth anniversary of the Fourteen Points are both events to bring Poles and Americans together. As Poland plans its observances of these important dates, it is also time for American Polonia to plan its celebrations of these important events. Every Polonian organization should have a plan for how it will mark these important events.
The centennial of the end of World War I, the recovery of Poland’s independence, and the issuance of the Fourteen Points are all historical events that can bring Americans and Poles together … and not just Polish Americans but all Americans. These events provide a natural opportunity to educate our fellow Americans about the history, culture, and achievements of Poland over the past century, to accentuate Polish pride. We’ve done a lot, from Pilsudski to John Paul II, from Paderewski to Solidarity. Let’s not blow the chance to share this with others by not investing the time and planning we need to—NOW—to exploit these opportunities to the fullest.
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