Home » News » Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Jacek Spendel on Defending Freedom

Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Jacek Spendel on Defending Freedom


In 2005 as a student at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, Jacek Spendel ’08, ’09 became involved in the KoLiber association, a Polish nonpartisan youth group dedicated to classical liberal ideas, free-market economics, and traditional values. In the years since, Jacek has gone on to open his own pizza restaurant to better understand the entrepreneurial experience and started “Project Arizona” to bring European students and young professionals (including many TFAS alumni) to Arizona to teach them how to be better leaders for freedom within their own countries. He was recently named president of Liberty International, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing world liberty through international education and networking.

In this week’s episode of the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 sits down with Jacek to discuss his journey in the liberty movement and the impact of his experiences with TFAS. Jacek shares his early involvement with the KoLiber association in Poland, and how attending a Language of Liberty program in Slovakia in 2007 inspired him to organize similar events in multiple countries. He also delves into his time in Washington, D.C. with TFAS’s Capital Semester program and how it influenced his decision to found the nonprofit Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation. Jacek and Roger discuss his work and founding of Project Arizona, a program that brings international students and young professionals to Arizona to learn about leadership and freedom, and his current role as president of Liberty International. They also discuss the state of freedom in Poland, and how Spendel’s work and experiences have contributed to the liberty movement in his home country.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, supporters, faculty and friends who are making a real impact in public policy, business, philanthropy, law and journalism. Today on the Liberty and Leadership podcast, I’m so very pleased to be joined by Jacek Spendel, a graduate of two TFAS programs and a vigorous advocate for freedom and free markets, looking for an opportunity to deepen his understanding of the ideas of liberty Jacek found the TFAS summer program in Prague in 2008. A year later, he was awarded a scholarship to attend our Capital Semester Program in Washington, D.C.. After his time at TFAS, Jacek returned to Poland, founded the Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation, which works to advance the ideas of free markets, individual liberty, limited government and entrepreneurship by developing young leaders. Today, Jacek leads both Project Arizona, a program he founded and Liberty International. Jacek, thanks so much for joining me today. All the way from Poland. I’m excited to hear more about the important work you were doing. The situation in Poland and Ukraine and what you think the prospects for liberty are globally.

Jacek Spendel [00:01:32] Hello, Roger. Hello, dear audience. It’s an honor and pleasure to be a guest of your important show.

Roger Ream [00:01:40] Well, it’s wonderful to be talking with you. The wonders of the time we’re living in and modern technology, that we can do this almost as if we’re sitting in the studio together. Even though you’re on the other side of the world involved in important work and I assume getting ready for the Christmas holidays with your family.

Jacek Spendel [00:01:59] Interesting time. And I’m also glad that technology allows us to have smooth conversation in anywhere we are in the world.

Roger Ream [00:02:08] Well, as I was preparing to talk with you today Jacek, I was reminded that when donors sometimes ask about our budget and how much programs cost. I give them the numbers they want. But I very quickly say, you know, the Prague program costs about $200,000 to do each summer, but because we produce someone like Jacek Spendel, it’s well worth the money. The return on the investment and just that one graduate has had more impact than the value of the $200,000 we spent on the program that year. And I can cite many, many others like that. Of course, Clint Bolick, who’s a Supreme Court justice in Arizona, came to our program in the U.S. in 1982 and has such an impact on the cause of liberty and free markets. And so that’s why I’m so thrilled to have you on the podcast today, because you embody both liberty and leadership. So if you don’t mind, we’ll dive in. And could you tell me a little bit about your upbringing and the time before you first found TFAS?

Jacek Spendel [00:03:19] Well, thank you so much for such an important, good words. I feel a little ashamed, you know, especially being put together in a team with Clint. But Clint is good friend, and we can say we are TFAS alumni liberty gang from Arizona, although I live in Poland. But we will mention Arizona a few times during this conversation. That’s my favorite place in the U.S. That’s my favorite place in the world, actually, where I do my educational leadership program and coming back to TFAS years, oh yes, they meant a lot. They still do mean a lot to me. Well, you could say I was already a freedom minded person before I joined the TFAS program in Prague, but on a very different level. You know, the fact that you can meet outstanding faculty, people like Bruce Yandle, who was nominated for Nobel Prize in economics in the eighties, he was my, you know, economic professor in Prague along with Quadrant Golf and a number of other staff members with Matthew Kwesi Boyarsky, who was the main manager of the TFAS program. He was such an icon. He is of leadership and all these students. I was so thrilled and amazed. People from over 30 countries met in one place and all really nice, smart and nice. And I never been to such a multicultural, international project before. And this was a very good combination of quality education. You know, this this document certificate diploma we achieved from Georgetown University. Back then, TFAS collaborated with Georgetown University for the Prague program. It meant a lot and the location was super plus the international contacts and new information, for example, about the U.S. Constitution. Stuff I learned from Roger Pilon, the expert of Cato Institute. Just outstanding. So that was huge. But the year later, when I joined Capital Semester and the well, I got a very, very nice scholarship, I need to say. So once again, huge thanks to all the donors. I know many of them, majority of them still donate to TFAS. You do a good thing. Thank you. I was very lucky to be there. That time it was more more American students. But that was also important to learn how they live. What they study at their own universities and the D.C. experience itself is a special place, you know, where politics happens and big business. I actually interned for Colbeck Eastman before the company got into trouble. They didn’t get in trouble because of me, I hope at least. Well, I had a great time with Steve Saigon. He was the head of the public relations department. Later he moved to Toyota. He was good and obviously the faculty was fantastic, outstanding and my favorite personally, I’m biased. Economic professor Thomas Rustici of George Mason University. Great times and also friendships. This is also when I learned that something clicked in my head, two things. First, that I want to be in the liberty movement permanently. I mean, I want to make it my career. I want to join the passion with the job. I want to support my living also through this. And it should be possible if I work hard enough. And the second thing, I was also very influenced by U.S. education. I definitely saw that the level of education in economics, government is certainly higher than the Polish University when I studied back then and I decided to start a Ph.D. program at the university, and I’m not a doctor right now. I got very, very busy by the end of this program. It made it impossible for me to. So I am ABA, you know, all but ABD all but my dissertation. Unfortunately, my economic academic advisor, he died. The best expert on Friedrich Hayek philosophy and other philosophers with Janusz Kuczyński.

Roger Ream [00:08:24] What was his name?

Jacek Spendel [00:08:25] His name was Janusz Kuczyński a professor from university. So I don’t have this Ph.D., but I spent five years in the university pursuing and learning tons, and this decision was also influenced heavily by TFAS and I do not regret it. So starting first, joining a think tank in Poland Globalization Institute, eventually starting my own organization just a few years later, you know, only three years later after capital semester, that Ph.D. track, all of this and even forming Project Arizona a number of years later. All of this is heavily influenced by my TFAS experience, both in Prague and in Washington, D.C..

Roger Ream [00:09:12] You bring to mind that about the time you were born, I guess great changes were taking place in Poland and in Central and Eastern Europe. And it was in 1991 that the Board of trustees of The Fund for American Studies sent me, along with several trustees and the dean from Georgetown over to Central and Eastern Europe to look about establishing what became our program in Prague. And we visited both Warsaw and Krakow. And I remember one evening we had dinner with four professors from Jagiellonian University. This was 1991. And I believe that the gentleman you mentioned, the highest scholar, was perhaps one of the professors who came with us. I know Professor Legutko was there, who was well-known in many academic circles.

Jacek Spendel [00:09:59] Roger, so I am pretty sure Professor Kaminski was part of this meeting, part of this circle, as back in the eighties, he took part in many Liberty Fund discussion groups and was very involved in promoting philosophy, F.A. Hayek and classical liberal thought so very, very likely, so great man, and the great loss that he is no more with us here on Earth.

Roger Ream [00:10:26] So just to summarize kind of where you’ve come, you were interested in the ideas of liberty. You found us. Our program in Prague had the opportunity to learn from people such as the esteemed Bruce Yandell and constitutional scholar Roger Pilon, and then got a scholarship from us to come to Washington, D.C., and study with the renowned Thomas Deasy, who was influential on many, many students in TFAS programs over the years, now still at George Mason. And then you returned home and went to work as an entrepreneur, a little bit in the for profit sector, I guess, but in the nonprofit sector, in the civic organization sector, by founding a number of different initiatives and leading to the creation of Project Arizona. So why don’t we pick up with summarizing a little bit what the purpose of Project Arizona is, because it’s been such a successful endeavor that you’ve undertaken there, and I’ve been so impressed with the interns or the fellows that you’ve brought through that program that I’ve met, some of whom have visited our office in Washington, D.C.. So how does a young man from Poland passionate about liberty, found Project Arizona?

Jacek Spendel [00:11:48] So Project Arizona, I think the deep roots are connected to my very good friend Glen Cripe, who is head of language of Liberty Institute. And you know, even before going to Prague, I actually happened to be at the Liberty camp he organized in Slovakia. And Glen happened to live in Phenix for a number of years. So it was my dream to go there. And, you know, right after I finished Capital Semester in 2009, the little funds that I saved, I used to fly to Arizona, and I can say that I already fell in love. But much stronger connection, stronger bonds I made two years later, when I decided to go for another internship, paid internship at Goldwater Institute, me and my friend DaMasia, we were the first international interns at that institution. And I love Goldwater Institute as much as I love TFAS. I will not hide it. My two favorite organizations, other than the ones that I work for, of course. It was also a fantastic time. It was the dream team with Darcy Olsen, Clint Bolick, Nick Daniels. Just, you know, victory after victory. It was just fun to go there every day to work for Goldwater. And I had this thought I would love to have an institution like this in Poland, but at that time, we didn’t have even leaders who would be well-educated into, you know, in economics, in law and so I started something different before Project Arizona. I started Polish American Leadership Academy. And you know, we had over 1500 alumni. The academy right now is a little bit paused, but we did run for ten years, at least two additions per year. So lots and lots of students who learned about ideas of freedom, about the rule of law, classical liberal thought in this academy. But I always remember about Arizona, that this is a great place. And it’s an example of freedom, not just in the U.S., but also worldwide. So being very, very inspired with what Goldwater Institute accomplishes and also having, you know, personal interest. I love Arizona. I love to be there. I will not hide it. I was thinking, what kind of project can they offer to young people so that they can go to Arizona? I can offer something valuable for them and join, you know, passion and what I like with what is actually productive and to fill a niche on the market, educational market. And obviously I was very inspired with TFAS again. However, your programs are more in America. The focus is national, national focus. That’s why they are in D.C. and you have the international program. Here in Arizona, this is more about state rights, about how states can influence, states regulations and taxes they impose, and the different freedoms, the role that it could play in human life. So states are very, very important and Arizona still can shine as a very, very good example. So the purpose is basically to bring young leaders for liberty, people who already do stuff for freedom. And this is a small project we have basically between six and ten students, depends on the year to bring them to Arizona so they can do internship, they can get meaningful education with ASU professors and other leaders, do some volunteering and tons of networking with business people, think tank leaders, politicians, so they can absorb the climate of liberty and learn through the example. You know, Arizona is one of the leading states for economic and individual freedom, not just because the freedom loving people happen to live there. This is a result of hard work, very hard work of numerous institutions, libertarian, conservative, free market, that fight and work every day to achieve this is not easy and the stakes are high. The other side also have their own agenda, you know, and strong institutions, obviously. So this is a place where young people and we are talking about people between 20 and 30 years old from all over the world. They can strengthen their careers through meaningful internships, but also they can learn about the place they go about, the U.S. Constitution. You know, we have classes run by Clint Bolick, the very Arizona Supreme Court justice. You mentioned alumnus of TFAS. They can learn about free market economics from Christos Levinsky, also fantastic economist, I’m sure you know Christos. And networking, if a small group of people, outstanding people meet individuals who are successful in their lives, then dots get connected quickly and effectively and we see fantastic fruits. You know, I’m super proud of a number of my alumni. One of them is doing things for TFAS, Jorge Galicia from Venezuela.

Roger Ream [00:17:35] Yes.

Jacek Spendel [00:17:36] Project Arizona was his first stop in the United States after he left the madness of socialist Venezuela.

Roger Ream [00:17:44] We’ve been sending Jorge Galicia out to college campuses as somewhat of a warning to American, young people that we need to make sure we don’t follow the path of Venezuela and head toward the kind of populist socialism that they are enduring right now that’s plunged that country into poverty from being a very rich country in the past. And I don’t think it’s alarmist to suggest that we have to be careful not to follow that path, because that is a path that many, many rich countries have gone on in the past in human history. As you were talking, it seems to me that if you look at any given country, at any given moment, it’s either moving toward more freedom, more human flourishing, more individual liberty, or it’s moving away from it. It’s not a static thing that just sits there without any change. And we’ve seen in this country is we’ve been slipping on the index of economic freedom from being one of the freest countries in the world. Many countries have passed us now as we’ve been adding to the burden of government on the American people and putting restrictions on economic activity. And you point out the importance of states and the role states play in creating a climate that is conducive to economic growth, economic liberty and human flourishing. And I know that does take a lot of work. Like you said, I had Clint Bullock on as a guest in one of my earlier Liberty and Leadership podcasts, and he talked about fighting for the civil liberties, the economic liberties of people in Arizona, from the guy who owns the tattoo parlor and is trying to be closed down. And Clint, I think, showed us his tattoo that after.

Jacek Spendel [00:19:31] Scorpion.

Roger Ream [00:19:32] On that case to cases dealing with education. And also you reminded me in mentioning the Arizona State University faculty teaching courses for your students. James Strickland, a professor at ASU, is another TFAS alum who’s involved in a center there. And I hope at some point if you haven’t, you’ll meet him when you’re in Arizona. But now tell me about this Liberty International that you’ve become the leader of. I know it’s been around for many years, but you’re leading Liberty International now. Could you tell us a little bit about that organization?

Jacek Spendel [00:20:10] Oh, that’s a fascinating story. And this is my dream job. What I’m doing. And president of Liberty International since 2019. And while the organization is quite old. Similar age to TFAS, actually, but much smaller. Liberty International was started in 1969, but under a different name Society for Individual Liberty. There were a number of mergers. The biggest one were Libertarian International, and they formed in late eighties. Organization name ISIL. Probably still many people remember it as ISIL International Society for Individual Liberty. And only about a decade ago, we rebranded for Liberty International.

Roger Ream [00:20:57] Yeah, I think a certain terrorist organization used to use those initials back a few years ago. So it’s a good thing you rebranded.

Jacek Spendel [00:21:07] Yes, exactly. That was the main purpose. You know, in my very, very early years as a libertarian, I went to my first ever international conference. It was ISIL, and I was awarded a scholarship in Prague in 2006 and it was a great conference. I need to say hosted, I should say by Liberal Institute. I’m sure you know.

Roger Ream [00:21:34] Yes, we’ve worked with them.

Jacek Spendel [00:21:35] In 2006, two years before TFAS, I was in Prague for the Libertarian Conference. ISIL as a young student, you know, 21 year old. And I fell in love with this movement and later I joined two or three times as a first scholar than just participant, these two world conferences, these are the flagship programs of Liberty International in Switzerland. I joined in Poland and then eventually in 2018. So I have this friendly connection. But we were not working together. We were friends and colleagues in the freedom movement. But in 2018 or actually earlier, Ken Schoolland then president of Ally and now my vice president reached out to me saying that they are searching for reliable hosts and partner of the conference and they would like to do it in Poland and I ran the Freedom and Democracy Foundation. I still do run this organization with Dr. Martin Milevsky. We decided why not? Why shouldn’t we try? This is a worthy thing and we did it. And it was really good. Over a hundred of people from I think 25 countries gathered in Kharkov. We did basically almost everything, you know, just a few guys. We were back then maybe 30 years old and we did pretty good conference. And again, this rule that if you do something well and people see you, that you are solid, this will present that this will bring positive outcomes. And just less than a year later can call me saying, you know, we are searching for new president and I would like to meet you. And he travels to Phenix. He also happens to have some of the family there. And we had a conversation and started talking and eventually I agreed for this proposition. They agreed also to have me. Most more importantly, obviously, the board accepted and this big job started. You know, I am quite busy running this organization. We have six, not seven projects, very different projects from Project Arizona, which I brought to Liberty International through the World Conference, up to Libertarian Solutions, which is our online program. We started under COVID but is very successful, will have third edition of it this winter. We are working on the animation project for Jonathan Gullible, the book by Ken Schoolland, and we are actually very soon launching our first ever research project on working migration. And we do a pilot on Ukraine with experts. We collaborate with Easy Business, a Kiev based think tank, and we will be growing this project with other countries. We are thinking about Hong Kong, Venezuela. This  is about situation of people who leave their countries for better life and the not necessarily refugees, but also people who basically want to move from place that doesn’t offer, you know, enough opportunities to places that offer more. And we are measuring these important factors so that this index can help as a practical tool and practical is super important. I want to change Liberty International. I am changing the organization so it becomes more practical libertarian organization. We libertarians are very often known as, you know, theoreticians that we love to theocratize and talk about private sidewalks or small atomic power plants or something like that. You know, things that are quite far from the current reality. And in fact, today’s world, very globalized world, offers a lot of freedoms and opportunities to every single human, you know, with different kinds of platforms that can help us to become more free in economic sense, to become more prosperous in ways how we can travel this right now. That’s a completely different world than what it was 20, 30 and more years ago. Also, some of the civic liberties unknown before. So we try to put the positive light on today’s world, even though obviously this is on the free world. And in many places it gets worse. That’s true. But to be on the positive that’s the mission. And I want to change the organization to make it more practical and basically so that our work can be used by people, by individuals to make their life easier, better and more free.

Roger Ream [00:27:00] Yeah, Jacek I’ve heard you reference previously a book by Harry Browne, “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.” So it sounds like you’re taking that path of trying to show people how they can live flourishing lives and find freedom in sometimes a world that’s less than free, depending on what.

Jacek Spendel [00:27:24] This is one of the few books that influenced me the most, and I take this example as very, very important. And I believe we can do a lot in this room helping people to live freer, more prosperous lives right now, right here in this current situation, even with governments and taxes, you know, I don’t like governments and taxes, but we shouldn’t sit and cry. We should look for opportunities to flourish despite of this governments. Life opens a lot of good things. We should just grab them.

Roger Ream [00:28:02] That’s a great thought. Let me ask you a little bit about the situation in Poland, putting aside just for a minute the problems created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. How is the state of freedom in Poland?

Jacek Spendel [00:28:18] It’s not in the best shape, I should say. We are a country, Poland that did go through a deep transformation in early nineties.

Roger Ream [00:28:39] Shock therapy right? It was called shock therapy.

Jacek Spendel [00:28:42] Yeah shock therapy, very free market reforms we’re undertaken and explosion of entrepreneurship especially small and medium and entrepreneurship. Also lots of foreign investments that also meant, you know, some turmoil and lots of people lost their jobs in the big government companies that usually produce stuff that was not needed or were badly run, badly managed because they were centrally planned, centrally managed. Very different concept than the free market and the role of supply and demand. So it was positive, of course, there was a bumpy road. You know, ups and downs. Some taxes were too high and so on, so forth. But generally speaking, we were on the good path. And just a few years ago, back in late 2015, this right wing party law and justice won the election and there should not be nothing wrong about right wing parties around the election. Usually these parties have more understanding of economics than the left wing parties, correct? That’s generally true. Not in Poland. We in Poland experienced something unprecedented where the supposedly right wing party, that’s how the public opinion thinks about them is more to the left in economics than anything from the center to the left. They are anti capitalistic. They are hostile to the idea of privatization. Hostile to the idea of you know, private companies flourishing. They have this bitter mindset that some people got too successful during this transformation and some other people did not flourish as much as they should. So they see some injustice. And so there is a lot of social justice component in this. We have a right-wing party. And why they are right wing because they are quite conservative when it comes to their vision of nation, family, religion and so on. But when it when it comes to economics, they are far, far left. This is a kind of a cocktail of ideas. And still a lot of people thought I was one of them, that they rather talk about this in campaign, but they will not do this because they still have some brain. I remember when they were in power in 2005 until 2007 shortly two years, but they didn’t do anything radical back then. But I was wrong. These guys were serious. This time they were serious that they wanted to expand the welfare state drastically. You know, we did not double. We did not triple. We quadrupled social welfare spending in Poland in the last six or seven years. This is unprecedented. We were a country where it didn’t pay off to not work. I mean, you could get some, you know, crunches, some small money.

Roger Ream [00:32:10] I want to ask, since you said they increased welfare spending so much, was it popular? Did it increase their popularity to be offering all this generous welfare spending?

Jacek Spendel [00:32:22] They did a lot. This is how they got even more popular. And they won with higher margin elections in 2019. But there are two important things I want to mention. I know I talk a lot about but I will try to bucket one thing is that for a number of years, because it’s already six or seven years since they were elected, the first time they truly managed to have this social welfare spending and basically increasing spending on many different reasons and keep economic growth. I should even say that the economic growth was very high in the first years of this government. And they were attacking us. You know, they call us neoliberals, which I don’t like this word, like nobody even call themselves neo. But they say, you neoliberals are wrong. You say that we should limit spending in order to grow. Look, we are spending like never and we continue to grow, you are wrong, etc.. Unfortunately, now we see after so many years, but we see that this policy was totally reckless. And this is not just welfare spending. This is also about the rule of law, this government does not obey the Constitution as much as they should, does not obey the independence of judiciary. We never had a great judiciary and a fantastic constitution. That’s not my point. But we had something we had some division of, you know,  division of powers, not perfect, but still working somehow. And this government says we were elected by the people and therefore, we have a right to change every single institution in this country. So some of my friends, political experts, they call it the Polish language demokrata. And that will be something like dictatorship of democracy, where the voice of the people is so strong in the vision of these guys that, no constitutional limits matter anymore.

Roger Ream [00:34:57] I think we’d call that the tyranny of the majority or something along those lines.

Jacek Spendel [00:35:01] Your founding fathers very well knew how big danger it is. I wish the politicians of law and justice, the ruling party of Poland, read a bit of the Founding Fathers.

Roger Ream [00:35:13] Our Founding fathers knew you had to try to protect the rights of minorities in a majoritarian system and protect the rights to property and liberty. And layered on top of all this, of course, was the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the millions of refugees coming into Poland. How has the country been able to deal with that influx of refugees and war on its border?

Jacek Spendel [00:35:43] So at the beginning, I should say something maybe positive about the government. I said already a lot of bad things, but at least they remained quite sober about Russia. That differs us, that differs Polish government from Hungary’s Viktor Orban, government that is in bad with Vladimir Putin and has a lot of shady deals with him. Poland doesn’t go this way. We stand for western alliance NATO, you know, friendship with the United States and also Western Europe. So that is positive. But we should know that this crisis was we went through it. I am very proud about the polls actually here. And I don’t say this very often, you know, but we really stand up to this challenge. Literally millions. I think at some point when it was the peak, maybe in April, about 3 million refugees from Ukraine were in Poland. You know, they did not go to any refugee camps or any facilities built by governments, similar to what I have in mind is with Germany and a few other countries building back in 2015 for the Middle East. We didn’t do this, they found a home under the roof of the Polish families. I had one family here as well in my house. They are family of my good friend. So it was a little bit different set up. But the wonderful family from Lviv, from western Ukraine. So that opens the free Society of Poland. The self-managed society responded very well to this crisis. We did this not thanks to government, but in spite of the government. I’m glad the government at least did not mingle too much. And you should see all these fundraisers, all these people driving to the border with their private cars to help the refugees. It was just tremendous. You know, this nation, Polish nation, has really this gene of solidarity. And this gene of solidarity is very good thing, you know, because solidarity comes from heart. It’s a spontaneous, voluntary act of good will from one person towards the another in need.

Roger Ream [00:38:16] That’s a phrase worth pausing for me to repeat that the Polish people have a gene of solidarity because, you know, we know that word solidarity. We associated very much with 1989 and the end of communism in Poland. I want to ask you one question I’ve had on my mind leading into this podcast is what people of your parents or grandparents generation think about life in Poland versus life in communist Poland? Are there many people in Poland who long for the old days when things might have had been simpler in terms of, you know, that guaranteed job for life in the factory that produces something that nobody wants? Limited choices that make life perhaps easier in some ways for some people. Or is support for, you know, at least staying free as a country however defined strong among the Polish people?

Jacek Spendel [00:39:26] This mindset that we should be free and sovereign is predominant. It’s very, very strong. So it’s not so easy to find people who are, you know, nostalgic about the old regime for communism. Of course, they do exist. They usually quite old and bitter because, well, they were younger and more successful under the previous regime. Usually they were already, you know, retired when this new system started. So they couldn’t really take advantage of opportunities that it brought. These people exist, but they are very small percentage. So in Ukraine, there are many more people like that, as far as I know. And in other post-Soviet countries in Poland is small. However, there are two other groups that I can mention. Big groups, because there are a lot of smaller groups as well. But one would be people who really took advantage of the transformation, who either started their own businesses and they flourished. And free market capitalism worked very well for them. And these people usually are pro democratic, pro free markets, pro-Western. And then you have this large group of people who come from an independent tradition, meaning they inherently dislike communism. They believe and rightly so, they believe communism was slavery because the other country, namely USSR, dictated Poland what Poland should do. And the for that very reason they dislike or even hate communism because it was a type of slavery. But many of them in the second category, they don’t enjoy or they have a hard time to enjoy the fruits of a free market system that we have. Maybe they were not lucky. Maybe they did not work hard. There are different stories, but you can find people who are nostalgic about the economic system of communism, who would say like, oh under Wojciech in seventies, everybody has guaranteed job, vacation, was paid by the state etc. But obviously it was a slavery under Moscow and we should be independent. They kind of blend the independent tradition with socialist tradition. And many of these people are the voting base for the Law and Justice Party. It may sound very weird for especially Americans that there are people who come from noble tradition, independent, you know, kind of quite conservative, and they blended with socialist mindset. Especially for Americans it’s mind blowing. But here in Poland, you’ll find this kind of mixture more and more often.

Roger Ream [00:42:58] Well, Jacek, it looks like we’re coming up on our time limit. I have a last question I want to ask you, which I asked many of our guests, and that is if you’re at a TFAS program and a young person comes up to you today and says, Mr.Spendel, how do I make the world a better place? I want to make a difference in the world. I want to be a leader. I want to promote human flourishing. How do I do that? What kind of advice would you give a young person to help them prepare for leadership? And courageous leadership?

Jacek Spendel [00:43:35] Work hard, obviously. If you have an opportunity to take a good internship, take it. It’s not paid, not a problem. And you don’t need to make money in your early twenties. There will be time to make money in your life. Read the good books, study hard. Have your eyes open for opportunities there are so many. I mean, when I was in my twenties, when I did the TFAS programs, there were already many. But there are even more right now opportunities. When it comes to, you know, growing your career. But have a passion in the first place. It’s just a very good feeling to have a passion, because when you work hard towards realization of your passion, you don’t even feel that you work in some sense, of course. You know this feeling very, very different to have a job that makes you driven every day versus the job that you look at the clock. So passionate, hard working, all eyes open, ears open for opportunities there are so many of them. A lot of networking go to programs like TFAS, most definitely or Project Arizona or both actually have both. But when you earn your success, it stays better than when it’s given to you by someone and it’s more long lasting.

Roger Ream [00:45:19] I was talking to my colleagues at TFAS just a week ago, and I said, you know, we’ve got a great team there, people who are passionate about our mission, who have the opportunity to make a difference in the world. And there’s a perk about working at TFAS. On top of all that is we actually do pay you. But if you’re passionate about it, you know that’s what drives you. And those are the kind of people we look for in this business, as you know. Well, I think we’ve run out of time unfortunately. There’s a lot more it would be nice to talk with you about. I appreciate you joining me. We are so proud of all that you’re doing, not only in Poland, but with young people around the world who participate in Project Arizona and Liberty International. Your influence stretches way beyond the borders of Poland. So keep up the good work. I look forward to collaborating with you with TFAS and your initiatives. It’s been a pleasure.

Jacek Spendel [00:46:17] Thank you so much, Roger. Again, without TFAS, I would not be where I am right now, and I still want to climb even higher and always with liberty in my heart. TFAS played a very, very important role and TFAS still does play a very important role for a lot of young people, many of them I actually encourage to go to Prague, Santiago, you have Asian program. Obviously D.C. because I believe that’s the good place to go. And I want to thank once again your fabulous generous donors who make all of this possible. You are doing fantastic work and God bless TFAS. You know, I want to help as much as possible and looking forward to a future collaboration.

Roger Ream [00:47:08] Well, thank you. Yes. And, you know, I’ll just mention one of the great things that was established by a number of donors was a scholarship we have for a Polish student each year to come to our program in Washington. It was the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Scholarship. But when General Ed Rooney died, the one who instigated that scholarship, we renamed it the Romney Petoskey Scholarship. But that continues. It’s endowed and brings Polish students to our program. And also I want to point out to you that both the permanent ambassador to the United Nations from Poland and his deputy are both TFAS alums. So when we’re in New York, we have two of our distinguished Polish alums to call on.

Jacek Spendel [00:47:53] Krzysztof Szczerski, right?

Roger Ream [00:47:54] Well don’t ask me for names right now.

Jacek Spendel [00:47:59] And, you know, I remember that when he was running for Polish parliament, in he’s very short note in his leaflet he mentioned that he’s graduate of TFAS.

Roger Ream [00:48:10] Well, he recorded a wonderful message this summer that we played for our students in Prague, encouraging them to work hard and be leaders and echoing many of the things you said. So thank you very much. My guest today has been Jacek Spendel. This is the Liberty and Leadership Podcast. Thank you, Jacek.

Jacek Spendel [00:48:29] Thank you, Roger.

Roger Ream [00:48:31] Thank you for listening to the Liberty and Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty and Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal Studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host Roger Ream and until next time, show courage in things large and small.


About the Podcast

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.


Recent Posts


Deception and the Fight for Truth with Senator Rand Paul

This week, another exceptional guest joins us on the Liberty + Leadership Podcast: Senator Rand Paul.

Exploring Liberty from Budapest to Washington, D.C., with Anna Smith Lacey

This week, another exceptional TFAS alumna joins us on the Liberty + Leadership Podcast: Anna Smith Lacey '07, '08, PPF '12, executive director at the Hungary Foundation.

Remembering Thomas (Tom) L. Phillips

It is with great sadness we share news that TFAS Trustee Emeritus Thomas (Tom) L. Phillips passed away at his home in Newport Beach, California, last week. Tom was a generous man who supported TFAS for many years, including a $1 million gift in memory of TFAS…