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January 1st, 2014
04:19 PM ET

Nobel Peace Prize winner: Obama failed to reclaim America's role as world leader

(CNN) - The 1990s was an era of big dramatic moments, movements, and amazing victories led by underdogs - Nelson Mandela was one; Lech Wałęsa another.

Wałęsa was the ship yard electrician turned union organizer who helped overthrow the repressive Communist government in Poland. Imprisoned in the early 1980s, the leader of the Solidarity movement went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and became the first democratically elected president of Poland in 1990.

At 70, he remains irrepressible, stubborn, even bullheaded, having made clear his U.S. presidential preference for Mitt Romney during the 2012 election.

The old cold warrior is a strong critic of President Barack Obama.

"When he was elected there was great hope in the world. We were hoping that Obama would reclaim moral leadership for America, but that failed," Wałęsa told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" through an interpreter.

"America does not lead the world in the area of morality. In terms of military, yes, no question about it. Economically, it is getting weaker. But in terms of politics and morality, America no longer leads the world," Wałęsa said.

He said under Obama, America has also lost its role as the world's leader.

"Up until the end of the last century, the United States was the last resort for all problems of the world. It was the last hope for any world problem or conflict. America always helped. And now, we have lost America as this last resort.

"We have to do everything that we can to recreate, to reclaim America's role. To give America that leadership role again. And it seems that Obama would manage that, but he didn't accomplish that. America did not regain its leadership status. We’re just lucky that there are no bigger conflicts in the world, because if it had bigger conflicts then the world would be helpless. In the long run, it is a dangerous situation. So we are awaiting a President who will understand that," said Wałęsa.

Wałęsa is in the spotlight this year, cast again as the hope of Poland. Although this time the stakes are considerably lower – a new biopic "Wałęsa. Man of Hope" is chasing Oscar gold, and will be Poland's submission for best foreign language film.

Wałęsa saw the movie for the sixth time on a recent trip to Washington.

"At first I didn't like it so much. I suggest you also view it six times, and you will also like it," Wałęsa said.

He is a religious man and he is calling for a secular 10 commandments for this new world, including a focus on solidarity with those whose human rights are being abused.

For example, Wałęsa says the world should show solidarity in its handling of China - especially on human rights.

"I have a Nobel Prize colleague who is imprisoned there," said Wałęsa, referring to Chinese professor and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

Wałęsa lost in Poland's 1995 presidential election. He made another unsuccessful bid in 2000. These days, he travels the world promoting human rights and democracy, and also this new movie.

Asked how it wants to be remembered, Wałęsa said: "I managed to destroy a bad system. Together we were good at destroying things. But now we must be excellent at building new things. It doesn't take that much, but let's talk about that."

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