Polish American Congress
The Polish American Congress (PAC) is a U.S. umbrella organization of Polish-Americans and Polish-American organizations. Its membership is composed of fraternal, educational, veterans, religious, cultural, social, business, and political organizations, as well as individuals.
As of January 2009, it lists 20 national organizations as members. It is sub-divided into 41 divisions and chapters. Traditionally, the PAC National President has also been the president of the largest Polish American fraternal organization, the Polish National Alliance (PNA).
Donald E. Pienkos noted that PAC is "one of the most important of all Polish American community (or Polonia) organizations". Stanislaus A. Blejwas wrote that it "has been for more than half a century "Polonia's" chief interest group". According to Blejwas, its creation was a "landmark in the history of Polish immigration to America."
In response to the threat to Poland's freedom caused by Soviet and German aggression, a large Congress of Polonia met in Buffalo, New York, from May 28 to June 1, 1944. Composed of roughly 2,600 delegates representing Polish and Polish-American organizations, the Congress created the PAC, defining its goal of a free Poland and underscoring its support for the US war effort against the Axis powers. The PAC incorporated the two former Polish umbrella organizations in the United States, the moderate Polish American Council founded in 1939 and the right-wing National Committee of Americans of Polish Descent founded in 1941. The other umbrella organization, the left-leaning American Slav Congress, remained independent.
PAC was the first umbrella organization representing a majority of Polish-Americans, previously represented by a wide range of smaller, mostly local organizations. Creation of PAC was enthusiastically welcomed by most of the Polish-American community. Shortly after its creation is boasted 6 million members and followers.
The Congress elected Karol Rozmarek as the first president of the PAC. He was succeeded in 1968 by Aloysius Mazewski, who served until his death in 1988. Under Mazewski, Leonard F. Walentynowicz served as executive director of the PAC for a number of years. Edward Moskal was elected president in 1988, and he, too, served as president for the remainder of his life. Its current president is Frank J. Spula.
PAC has been credited with the unification of the Polish-American community.
International relations lobbyingEdit
One of the principal goals of PAC in its early years was to pressure the US government to support the Polish government in exile, and prevent the communist take-over of Poland. That goal, however, ended in a failure. Over the coming decades, PAC would try to educate the American public about the fate of its once war-time ally, and to support a creation of a democratic Polish state. Its stance during that time has also been described as strongly anti-communist and anti-Soviet.
Criticism of anti-Polish racism and bigotryEdit
Outside of its goals related to international politics, PAC second main goal has been to improve the situation of the Polish-American community.
In 1969 PAC created the Civic Alertness Commission (Komisji Obrony Imienia Polskiego) to focus on reducing the anti-Polish sentiment and related anti-Polish discrimination in American media and public life. Over the years, the CAC would change its name several times, including to Anti-Defamation Commission (1970) and Anti-Bigotry Committee (1980); at some point in time (around 1989) two similar sub organizations existed at the same time. They organization focused on pointing out racism and bigotry in Polish jokes, and related stereotypes. The Committee supported the US government plan to create the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and policies that made it illegal to tell ethnic jokes in workplaces.
In 1972, PAC demanded equal time to respond to Polish jokes aired on ABC's The Dick Cavett Show. In the show, comedian Bob Einstein filled the role of the president of the imaginary Polish Anti-Defamation League. ABC had guest host Steve Allen apologize but refused equal time to PAC. PAC sued and lost in a case that reached the Supreme Court. PAC also threatened Steve Wozniak, himself of Polish heritage, with a lawsuit for telling Polish jokes.
In 1998, PAC criticized the Polish Wedding film, writing that "No wedding takes place. It's nothing but a contrived series of silly sexual escapades by a cheating wife and her promiscuous daughter shown as members of a crude and low-class family that Fox Films decided to give a Polish Catholic identity". PAC was concenred that the topics of teen pregnancy and sex outside of wedlock would convey the impression that Polish women are "loose". PAC has also criticized The Drew Carey Show, in particular the character Mimi Bobeck whose "Polishness" was toned down following the complaints.
In 1988 PAC was one of the backers of the National Polish American - Jewish American Council, however in 1996 PAC withdrew from the council following objections to the statements of its president Edward Moskal, described by some as antisemitic. In a letter to the Polish president, Moskal attacked "the submissiveness of the Polish authorities with respect to demands raised by Jews" in regards to the return of confiscated Jewish property and an apology for the Kielce pogrom. Following the incident, Jan Karski, who had also been attacked by PAC following a piece he penned in Trybuna Ludu, resigned from PAC.
- Canadian Polish Congress, similar organization in Canada
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