Primary Sources

President Bush's Remarks at a Symposium on Eastern Europe


In July 1989, President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and Hungary, the two countries in Eastern Europe in which substantial political and economic reform seemed most likely to occur first. In a series of speeches during the spring, Bush had set out his hope for a Europe “whole and free.” In April, at Hamtramck, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit heavily populated by Polish-Americans, Bush had announced, “My administration is completing now a thorough review of our policies toward Poland and all of Eastern Europe, and I've carefully considered ways that the United States can help Poland.” He warned, however, “we will not act unconditionally. We're not going to offer unsound credits. We're not going to offer aid without requiring sound economic practices in return.” In the following excerpts of welcoming remarks Bush gave to representatives of business, education, and labor institutions attending a White House symposium on Eastern Europe, Bush encouraged them to initiate concrete steps to foster ties to Polish and Hungarian institutions that would further the shared goal of a peaceful transition.


George H. W. Bush, "Remarks at a White House Symposium on Eastern Europe," speech, The White House, Washington, D.C., July 6, 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Now, this Sunday, as you know, I'm going to sail forth on Air Force One heading for Warsaw, going to a couple of stops in Poland and then to Hungary. And this is an extraordinary time in east-central Europe, a time, that you know better than I, I'm sure, of unprecedented change and, I'd say, unparalleled opportunity in East-West affairs....

So, these are historic times. And what's at stake is not just movement towards economic and political liberalization in Poland and Hungary but the prospect of ending the postwar division of Europe. And Poland and Hungary—yes, they're leading the way, but they face enormous economic and political problems. And they need our support in their efforts if they are to succeed.... [W]e need to hold out the promise of an alternative future for central and Eastern Europe, a peaceful transition that should be our goal, a peaceful transition to a democratic future. And we need to back up that promise with some practical assistance.

So, in just a few days, I'm going to be speaking to the people of Poland and Hungary about what more the United States and other Western governments can do to help. But my message to you today is simply this: The movement toward democracy takes more than governments alone. Democracy's great strength lies in its private and public institutions, the institutions that you all—almost to a man and a woman—represent.... And I've asked you here because all of you can help open avenues of cooperation between East and West.

And I call on the American business community to encourage the movement toward free markets by working with private sector enterprises in Hungary and Poland. . . . And I call on those of you in the educational community and with these private foundations to expand our exchanges with Hungary and Poland....

I want to see workers in Hungary, as well as those in Poland, benefit from the support of American trade unions....

Together, right in this room, there is a cross-section of the institutions that make democracy work and that give meaning, really, if you will, to the word "democracy." You're freedom in action, and you can help others along the path to freedom and democracy....

How to Cite this Source

President George H. W. Bush, "President Bush's Remarks at a Symposium on Eastern Europe," Making the History of 1989, Item #35, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:27 pm).