Ohio State President Gordon Gee Must Be Reprimanded For Polish Slur

Alex Storozynski, The Kosciuszko Foundation President & Executive Director
reacts to the Ohio State President’s, Gordon Gee’s comment:

As a son of Polish war heroes, I ask that you publicly admonish University President Gordon Gee for his unacceptable comment that your staff, “were shooting at each other … like the Polish Army.” In addition, the Board of Trustees must truly serve the 465,000 Polish-Americans living in Ohio by funding classes on Polish history at the University. With a President who lacks erudition, how can you expect to educate your students about World history, or Poland?

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Chairman Leslie H. Wexner Board of Trustees

The Ohio State University

210 Bricker Hall, 190 North Oval Mall Columbus, OH 43210-1358

Phone: (614) 292-6359

CC: gordon.gee@osu.edu lawrence.10@osu.edu

 

Dear Chairman Wexner and Trustees of Ohio State University:

As a son of Polish war heroes, I ask that you publicly admonish University President Gordon Gee for his unacceptable comment that your staff, “were shooting at each other … like the Polish Army.” In addition, the Board of Trustees must truly serve the 465,000 Polish-Americans living in Ohio by funding classes on Polish history at the University. With a President who lacks erudition, how can you expect to educate your students about World history, or Poland?

I can assure Mr. Gee that my father, Corp. Dionizy Storozynski was shooting straight as a motorcycle scout for a Polish tank division during the allied invasion of Normandy. Afterwards, he was awarded the Polish Army Medal, and three medals from the British Army. And I can assure Mr. Gee that my grandfather, Sgt. Wladyslaw Krzyzanowski was shooting straight when his Polish regiment, the Anders’ Army, helped drive the Germans from North Africa, and when he destroyed two German tanks in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. For this he received three Polish medals and three British medals. And I can assure Mr. Gee that the Polish WWII pilots that set records in accuracy in destroying German Luftwaffe planes during the Battle for Britain were shooting straight.

It’s Mr. Gee who is not a straight shooter. Gee has made a half-hearted apology. That is not enough. Gee has a history of putting his feet in his mouth and having to apologize. Yet the Ohio State Board of Trustees has made him the highest paid college president in the United States, paying him $1.6 million annually.

As Trustees, you are the governing body for a state university in a state that has nearly half a million Polish-American taxpayers and voters. Yet you offer few classes in Polish language and literature, and no classes in Polish history. With your university receiving $493 million in state appropriations and $426 million in other government funding in 2012, surely you can afford to rectify this situation. This should be put on the agenda for your next Board of Trustees meeting on Feb 9.

 

After Mr. Gee made his unenlightened comment, he said, “Who did I embarrass now?” For starters, Mr. Gee embarrassed himself and Ohio State University. This is also an embarrassment to United States foreign policy. With thousands of Polish soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gee’s comments have caused a stir in Poland. And the Polish soldiers supporting the American mission in Afghanistan will not be pleased with Mr. Gee’s benighted opinion. Poland’s Special Forces unit shut down oilrigs in the Persian Gulf during the invasion of Iraq, and the Polish Army played a major role in the war.

When I traveled to Iraq in 2006 to write an article for The New York Sun, U.S. Army lieutenant general, Peter Chiarelli, told me that the Polish troops “are doing an absolutely outstanding job. They’ve been one of the most steadfast members of the coalition. And these are two of the most peaceful provinces in all of Iraq, Diwaniyah and Wasit. And that’s largely attributable to the great leadership of successive Polish generals who have come down here and the Polish units who have served here.”

 

The Polish Army has made major contributions to European and American history. King Jan Sobieski turned back the Ottoman Empire during the Siege of Vienna in 1863 when the Turks invaded Europe and tried to turn it into a Muslim colony. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe at the time and Sobieski’s Hussar Knights were the most feared soldiers in Europe.

The President of a major university should also know the military contributions of Poles to this country. The Father of the American Cavalry, Gen. Casimir Pulaski saved George Washington’s life at the Battle of Brandywine. Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko built the largest fortress in America, West Point and suggested putting a military academy there. That was before he devised the plans for the Battle of Saratoga, the turning point of the American Revolution. And Abraham Lincoln appointed Wlodzimierz Krzyzanowski Brigadier General in the Union Army during the Civil War. Would Abe Lincoln have picked a Polish general if he could not shoot straight?

Mr. Gee further exposed his ignorance about Poland when after his witless comments about the Polish Army he told the crowd at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, “Oh, never mind, who did I embarrass now? I’ll have to raise money for Poland now.”

If Mr. Gee read The Wall Street Journal he would know that despite Europe’s financial woes, over the past several years, Poland has had one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. So no, Poland does not need Mr. Gee to help it raise money. But he can help himself by curing his foot-in-mouth disease and working to rehabilitate his image with the many Polish-Americans in your state.

 

Here’s where he can start. Thaddeus Kosciuszko was given 500 acres on the Scioto River in Ohio by the Founding Fathers for his exemplary service in the American Revolution. That original tract of land borders the Ohio State University campus in Columbus. Today, part of that land is the Riverside Park Drive Park in Dublin, Ohio, and in May the city will rename it Thaddeus Kosciuszko Park. In addition to his military service, Kosciuszko put his money where his mouth was when it came to standing up for liberty. Kosciuszko donated his salary from the American Revolution, $17,000 and asked that it be used to purchase slaves, and to free and educate them.

Kosciuszko was a virtuous straight shooter who did the right thing. If Mr. Gee is as much of a straight shooter as Polish soldiers, and has any semblance of decency, he should pay to erect a statue of Kosciuszko in that park. With a salary of $1.6 million per year, Mr. Gee can clearly afford it.

 

Alex Storozynski President & Executive Director The Kosciuszko Foundation

 

15 East 65th Street New York, NY

10065 212-734-2130

http://thekf.org/

 

Piast Institute Reacts to President Gee’s Negative Remarks

Dear President Gee,

I like many others both inside and outside the Polish American community, was surprised and dismayed by your remarks that played off deeply offensive stereotypes of Poles and Polish Americans. I am glad that you have recognized the inappropriateness of your statements and have tendered an apology. Nevertheless, it is disheartening that such remarks should come from the President of one of America’s major universities. It shows that our society still has a long way to go in dispelling prejudice.

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Dear President Gee,

I like many others both inside and outside the Polish American community, was surprised and dismayed by your remarks that played off deeply offensive stereotypes of Poles and Polish Americans. I am glad that you have recognized the inappropriateness of your statements and have tendered an apology. Nevertheless, it is disheartening that such remarks should come from the President of one of America’s major universities. It shows that our society still has a long way to go in dispelling prejudice.

I am sure that you and the university’s trustees have also received quite a number of letters detailing at some length the story of Poland as source of a world-class culture, a distinguished democratic tradition, courageous soldiers who have fought consistently for freedom for themselves and others and an unparalleled contribution to the history of liberty and human dignity in our time, through the efforts of heroes such as John Paul II and Lech Walesa.

Many of those who have written have asked for redress in the form of greater attention to the history of Poland and Polish Americans in courses and programs at The Ohio State University. Such projects would indeed help the people of Ohio better appreciate the contribution of Poland to world civilization and to give students a valuable historical and cultural perspective on universal issues such as human dignity, the price of liberty, and the various dimensions of tolerance, pluralism and non-violence. The Piast Institute heartily supports such a program, which is at the heart of its mission.

Nevertheless, such a program no matter how far reaching, will be of limited success unless it also addresses deep-seated negative images of Poles and Poland that lie buried in our culture. It will be hard for most people to even hear, let alone incorporate more positive images of Poland and Poles until these are attacked and extirpated. As Malgorzata Warchol-Schlottmann pointed out in her study of stereotypes of Poles in German culture “Positive personal experiences or empirical knowledge of Poland did not modify the stereotypical images”. On the basis of my experience, I believe that the same is true of American culture.

I do not think that you picked the image of incompetent Polish soldiers shooting at each other at random out of thin air. It would have left your listeners puzzled if you had chosen “The Norwegian army” as your example. You were drawing, certainly without deep reflection, perhaps ever reflexively on deeply embedded negative images of Poles and Poland in American culture.

These stereotypes took shape in Europe in the 18th century as part of propaganda by Prussia, Russia and Austria to justify their unprecedented partition of Poland and the destruction of the Polish constitution. They were later used to justify Nazi genocide against Poles. Those images were transmitted to America in the 19th century and became a distinct American bigotry in response to the large influx to Polish immigrants. Those stereotypes still exist and have power. This is clear from the fact that a President of a major American university could invoke them so unthinkingly and cavalierly.

I would hope that any program to provide redress would also include a mandate to examine the character and roots of anti-Polonism in courses and special programs designed to deal with racism, bigotry and prejudice in American Society. The Piast Institute, which is a national research and policy institute, would be pleased to assist in curriculum development and materials for such classes and programs.

We maintain close ties with the Polish community in Ohio and have worked with them on educational and cultural programs as well as providing demographic analysis of the Polish American population in Cleveland and Akron. The work of the Institute on such projects as our national survey of 1,400 Polish American leaders published as Polish Americans Today (2010) and our work in preparing curricula for the genocide curriculum in the California schools and for the National Catholic Holocaust Education Center at Seton Hill College has given us unparalleled recognition in Polish American communities and among their leaders. I also served for eight years as President of St. Mary’s College founded by Polish immigrants and for many years a national center for Polish studies in the U.S.

I look forward to working with you and the university to turn this unfortunate event into a positive project to lessen prejudice and create a genuine pluralism at Ohio State as well as to build bridges to the half a million Polish Americans who live in Ohio and the 10 million Polish Americans in the United States.

 

Sincerely yours,

Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, Ph.D. President

President E. Gordon Gee speech (remark is at 40:20)

 

 

 

12-15-2012