A hero to many, Adam Michnik ranks among the most fearless and respected public intellectuals of the last half century. Counted high among Michnik's own heroes is the late Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004), the poet and essayist who was an inspiration to many who resisted totalitarianism, oppression, and coercion. Michnik has told the story of how during the days of Solidarity, underground publishing was trying to return the opposition in Parliament into a culture: "I remember when I once was arrested the police found a box of treatises by Milosz in my apartment. And during the interrogation the officer was saying, 'Mr. Michnik do you believe that with the help of this little poetry you are going to win against Communism?' And we won."
Michnik, who joins Claremont McKenna College this semester as a Podlich Distinguished Fellow, has been the editor in chief of the first independent Polish daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, since its inception in 1989. It is now Poland's largest newspaper and one of Europe's most influential dailies. A lifelong activist for human rights, he was detained many times between 1965 and 1986, spending a total of six years in prison for his opposition to the communist regime. An adviser to the Solidarity trade union during the 1980s, he was a negotiator for the Solidarity team during the Round Table negotiations of 1989 between representatives of the government, Solidarity, and other groups that brought an end to communist rule in Poland.
He is the author of countless essays, articles, and books, including Letters from Prison and Other Essays (1985), Letters from Freedom: Post-Cold War Realities and Perspectives (1998), and The Church and the Left (1993). He has received numerous awards in recognition of his eloquently articulated advocacy of democracy and freedom of the press.
Czeslaw Milosz served in the Polish diplomatic corps, defecting from the communist state and settling in the U.S. during the Cold War years. The Nobel Laureate, who died last year, was honored during the Milosz International Festival: The Exile in California, a four-day event held on the CMC campus in 1998, which Michnik attended.