Any minute, we will have a former presidents' club in Poland. Not quite institutionalized, but it will actually exist. Also any minute, we will have a new president who is politically different from all of the former ones.
The measure of greatness for both the former and future head of the country will be the capacity for mutual cooperation and getting rid of personal prejudices, their party's excess baggage and interim politics. After all — however turgid that may sound — it is for Poland's good. Right, gentlemen?
Lech Wałęsa, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and Bronislaw Komorowski like and respect each other, back each other up and see a lot of things the same way, but it was not always so in the past. Former presidents managed to rise above their own history, animosities and obsessions to begin cooperating.
I dream of a picture such as this: the [Polish] Presidential Palace, a few days after Andrew Duda's appointment. In the hall with the chandelier stand Wałęsa, Kwaśniewski, Komorowski and Duda. They are posing in front of the cameras, then they head for a shared lunch to discuss the details of their cooperation. Not making use of the former presidents' potential would be completely irrational, as they all have contacts in the world and an authority that took years to attain.
If someone finds it unreal, let him take a look at how it is done in America. A moment after his appointment, the new President Barack Obama invited all of the former presidents to the White House. Jimmy Carter, who said that George W. Bush's presidency was the worst in the history of America, stood smiling in his presence. And next to them were Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, whom Clinton defeated in elections after one of the most brutal campaigns — which included, for instance, Bush saying that his dog Millie knew more about foreign politics than Clinton. Now they are almost like father and son.
During this meeting, the elder Bush stated that it does not matter whether one is a Democrat or a Republican because what matters the most is the concern for the country's good. Putting the case this way takes the presidents out of the party's laces. Only a former president can understand how heavy the weight of responsibility is that the head of the country has to carry on his shoulders.
Obama asked former presidents for assistance and he got it. He could always count on their help. He sent them to places where his own administration could not attain success. He used their knowledge, contacts and authority, and it did not hurt him. That is how the trust of citizens toward the country is built. Leadership can get passed from hand to hand, but the foundation of democracy is everlasting.
Andrew Duda assured us in the campaign that he wants to be the president of all Poles. The signals he sends up to this day show that he would prefer to be the president of PiS (the Law and Justice Party of Poland). But it could entirely be a lack of experience he is showing in threading the difficult issues.
If Andrew Duda would invite former presidents to the Presidential Palace, then he could prove that he is a truly independent president. The fact that Lech Wałęsa and Bronislaw Komorowski are hated in PiS would not matter, because the national interest is more important and demands cooperation. The problem is that Duda must already start thinking about his re-election in five years.
Maybe at this moment it would be worth it for him to recall how President Lech Kaczyński strived to get former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski named to the position of secretary general of the United Nations General Assembly. And he should also take a look at the cover of the latest Time magazine, with Bill Clinton posing together with George W. Bush.