The first time Utahn Steve Studdert met Lech Walesa, Walesa was just a shipyard electrician sitting in his modest apartment talking about the impossible dream of overthrowing Poland's Communist government.
When Studdert met with Walesa at his request Friday, Walesa was the first freely elected president of Poland who wished to thank Studdert for helping him in his campaign, and sought his help to attract Western companies and investment to Poland."We met at the Blair House - the president's guest house. And looking out the window, we could see the Polish flag flying at the White House next to the American flag. It brought tears to my eyes thinking about the first time I met him," Studdert said.
Studdert is a former aide and events organizer for presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush. He is now chairman of the Utah-based Studdert Companies, which he says offers business and marketing consulting. He uses his contacts and experience in Eastern Europe, for a fee, to help Western companies move there.
Studdert also volunteered his services during Walesa's campaign. "I volunteered because these are people who went to prison for just daring to think of freedom," he said.
Studdert has plenty of campaign experience, including being an inner-circle advisor for President Bush's campaign in 1988, the organizer of Bush's inauguration in 1989 and Bush's "imagemaker," organizing his appearances for Bush's first six months in office - including a trip to Poland.
Studdert had less success when he tried to help Republican Karl Snow in his campaign last year against Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah. Studdert accepted blame for an ad that backfired showing Snow and his family next to a mug shot of bachelor Orton entitled "Bill Orton and his family."
Studdert himself is sometimes mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, although he has denied any such interest.
Studdert described his visit with Walesa Friday as "very friendly," and noted, "We were the only private concern that met with him in his visit here."
Along with Walesa, Studdert met with Andzej Kozakiewicz - Walesa's economic advisor - and Deputy Minister of Finance Janusz Sawicki.
"We talked about Poland's needs and priorities, about the need for telecommunications, improving the infrastructure, transportation and health care," Studdert said. "President Walesa asked for our help to bring the right companies there for the right reason."
Studdert said he plans to travel to Poland in two weeks to continue such work. He also told Walesa he plans to open a new office in Gdansk. "That's his hometown, the birthplace of Solidarity and, really, the birthplace of the entire freedom movement in Eastern Europe," Studdert said.
He added that he already has a small office in the capital of Warsaw.