Lech Walesa, the first democratically elected president of Poland in the post-Soviet era, has truly challenged conventions during his life. And today the man who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Solidarity movement met with another convention-challenger when he visited Mazda headquarters in Hiroshima.

Speaking to Mazda executives, Walesa said, “In order to make things better in the world, leaders have never given up in the face of difficult challenges and conventional thinking. Mazda shares this passion, and I am very happy to be working together with this company as partners.” The Japanese automaker celebrates people from all walks of life who have challenged convention to make a difference in the world. It reflects Mazda’s spirit, which is why company executives worked closely with Walesa and the Lech Walesa Institute’s Civic Academy to bring the annual “Mazda Make Things Better Award” into life last October in Warsaw during the 13th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The first award was granted to Finnish student Antti Junkkari at the recent Geneva Motor Show. The award jury chose his project from among 120-plus applications as making the best use of modern advocacy tools to support a good cause: fighting small arms violence in Africa.

“Lech Walesa’s incredible life story is motivating to all of us. By challenging conventions, he has made the world a better place,” said Mazda Motor Europe President and CEO Jeff Guyton, who joins Walesa on the trip to Japan. “It is a great honour to welcome him to Hiroshima. After a fruitful collaboration last year in Warsaw, we’re delighted to be able to continue our dialogue in the City of Peace.” During his stay in Hiroshima, Mr. Walesa has met local politicians, visited the Peace Memorial Park and shared stories with Mazda executives and young managers. Walesa is being accompanied by (among others) Piotr Gulczynski, president of the Lech Walesa Institute.

* More information about the Lech Walesa Institute can be found at http://www.ilw.org.pl/en/