Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ambassador Piotr Wilczek Welcomes PAHA at 2017 Awards Ceremony in Washington D.C.

The 75th Annual Meeting of the Polish American Historical Association in Washington D.C. featured PAHA's Awards Ceremony held on January 6, 2018 at the Residence of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Prof. Piotr Wilczek.  The event began with a welcome by the Ambassador himself, reproduced below, with his permission. The list of awards and awardees may be found on this blog.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Let me start by saying that I am very happy to be the host this evening of the annual Polish American Historical Association Gala dinner. As a Professor of the history of literature, I am both honored and pleased to welcome for the first time PAHA members to my residence.

We are meeting today to present the Polish American Historical Association’s Prizes and Awards. These include: the Haiman Award for sustained scholarly effort in the field of Polish American Studies, the Halecki Prize for the best book on a Polish American topic, and the annual Swastek Prize for the best article appearing in Polish American Studies, which are all widely recognized in the community of Academic Historians.

Events such as today offer us an opportunity to celebrate all that PAHA and its members accomplished this past year, and to recommit ourselves to work even harder for our common good in the year to come. I would personally like to take a moment to thank all those gathered here this evening, as well as those who could not make it but who nevertheless have contributed to the storied history of the Polish American Historical Association. Your dedication and hard work are known, appreciated, and very important for the Polish-American community.

Since its founding during the tumultuous and uncertain days of World War II to today, PAHA has become a modern, interdisciplinary academic and professional organization with a diverse, international membership of individuals and institutions. As a scholar and Ambassador, I can attest that PAHA is an organization that all of Polonia can be proud of, and should appreciate for their important work.

Ladies and gentlemen, all of you here in the audience need no reminder that we have just inaugurated our centennial year of Poland’s rebirth, and what an incredible opportunity this presents for Poles everywhere to celebrate our history. As the Ambassador in Washington, D.C. I look forward to this centennial not only to celebrate with Polonia, but also to remind our American friends and partners the rich history of our relations. I am sure that many of you know that Monday is the anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Address. Anniversaries such as this present scholars, teachers, but also diplomats and journalists opportunities to reinvigorate public memory of these momentous events and their lasting ramifications.  Throughout the year and years to come we will celebrate those great heroes on whose shoulders we stand today, especially those with ties also to the United States. Here specifically I am thinking  about Ignacy Jan Paderewski – a great pianist, composer, statesman, prime minister, close friend of President Woodrow Wilson. I am pleased that PAHA has also decided to commemorate Him this evening.

In closing, I wish you a memorable evening and very productive meeting tomorrow. I hope that when you return home from this 75th jubilee conference in Washington you will again take up the challenge of uncovering Polish American history and bringing Poland and the United States closer together.

On the beginning of a new year I wish you all the best in your personal and professional life. I believe that your professional successes are the best possible way to promote Polish history and culture, and to shape the image of Poland – a country which is worth visiting, getting to know, and cooperating with.

Madame President Mazurkiewicz, the floor is yours.


Ambassador Piotr Wilczek
Photo: Karolina Siemion-Bielska/MSZ

Ambassador Piotr Wilczek was born on 26 April 1962, in Chorzów, Poland. A prolific literary scholar, intellectual historian, writer, and translator, he graduated in 1986 from the University of Silesia in Katowice, where he also received his Ph.D. (1992) and Habilitation (2001). Recruited by his Alma Mater, he remained there until 2008 as a professor and Faculty Dean. His interests include comparative literature, philology, and intellectual history that form the culture and geography of knowledge across time. In 2006, he received the title of Professor of the Humanities from the President of the Republic of Poland.

In 2008, he joined the University of Warsaw faculty at the new, experimental Artes Liberales program. He became the Founding Director of Collegium Artes Liberales (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) where he helped establish and chaired Centre for the Study of the Reformation and Intellectual Culture in Early-Modern Europe. Since 2010, he has also been at the helm of the Artes Liberales Doctoral Studies Program. An international scholar active in Europe and the United States, he has been promoting liberal arts education, which breaks the existing barriers between narrow fields of specialization traditionally favored in the continental Europe.

His commitment to interdisciplinary approach to learning draws on his own engagement with international studies, scholarly exchanges, and cultural diplomacy. A recipient of numerous grants and scholarships, he conducted postgraduate research in intellectual history at Oxford’s St Anne’s College in 1988 and completed two postdoctoral projects at the Warburg Institute, University of London, in 1996 and 1998. Twice, he was visiting translator at The British Centre for Literary Translation, University of East Anglia. In the United States from 1998 to 2001, he taught Polish literature and language as a visiting professor at Rice University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Chicago. He was invited to give public lectures at Harvard University and the University of Texas at Austin and conducted research as a visiting scholar at Boston College and Cleveland State University.

Piotr Wilczek is an active member of the Warsaw-based non-partisan American Study Group at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, which brings together experts, journalist, and academics who comment on political and cultural developments in the United States and analyze their implications for Poland, Europe, and the trans-Atlantic alliance. Until his diplomatic appointment in the US, he was Representative in Poland of the New York-based Kosciuszko Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educational, cultural, and artistic exchange between the United States and Poland. He also served as President of the Foundation’s affiliate in Warsaw.

Piotr Wilczek authored and edited 22 published monographs and more than 100 journal articles which appeared in Poland, the UK, and the United States, both in English and Polish. He belongs to a number of professional groups and associations and is a board member of various international scholarly journals, book series, advisory councils, and academic and educational initiatives in Europe and the United States.

On 21 October 2016 the President of the Republic of Poland nominated him Ambassador to the United States and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

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