Tonight I went to hear Mikhail Gorbachev, former Russian President, speak in Lindsborg.
It was an interview format and Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal was the interviewer. There was a chess table between them and they were playing, but Murray admitted he's not really a chess player.
I alternated between wanting to take pictures and wanting to take notes. One thing I loved was that Gorbachev was witty. Even though he was using an interpreter, he was funny and it came through.
Murray asked a few historical questions, including about the beginning of disarmament. Gorbachev said he was driven to end nuclear proliferation because "that war must never be fought."
When asked what he thought of Ronald Reagan during those talks, Gorbachev said that he was "a remarkable individual. A real person who wanted to do something to insure peace in the world." He said Reagan had "tremendous instincts" and that his profession of being an actor helped him. He said when Reagan spoke at the Berlin wall that he played that role, but that Gorbachev did not pay much attention because he knew it was a role.
When asked about today's situation, Gorbachev said,"National interests exist but now we live in a world where we need to promote peace to all people. It is a common responsibility to create a global peace."
At one point Murray asked what Gorbachev thought of the current president. Gorbachev said through his interpreter, "It is your responsibility to validate your president. Don't try to give that responsibility to us Russians." He got a good laugh and applause for that. Obviously, Gorbachev is still quite the diplomat.
One of the most interesting things was when Murray asked Gorbachev about how the world changed when we went from two superpowers to only one - the United States.
Gorbachev said we needed to be realistic about the position of the US and that much of the world is concerned about America's debt. He says it's "alarming," and that "America lives in debt to the future and to others."
He said the world worries about America's debt because they know that if the American economy collapsed it would be bad for many other economies.
He said the idea put forth that it's God will for America to lead now reminds him of the Bolshevik idea of a world empire. He said the American elite need to rethink their situation and get rid of their superiority complex. He said, "America needs its own Petroskia." And needs to understand that "no country can lead alone."
He said no country can solve everything on its own, we need international organizations "working for the common good of all people of the world." He said, "People want partnership, but object to domination."
Gorbachev's speech in Lindsborg kicks off a year long series of events dubbed, "Chess for Peace." http://www.chessforpeace.org/
It was started with the help of world chess champion Anatoly Karpov, who is a friend of Gorbachev. Karpov has started 15 international chess schools, and the one in Lindsborg is the first one in the US.
When a world leader is nearby, so is security - as one would expect. This quiet little town of about 3,300 called on multiple law enforcement agencies for help.
Karpov invited the former leader to come to Lindsborg and Gorbachev accepted with the stipulation that Karpov come with him and they play chess. All of that happened today.
In fact, this afternoon there was a match between Karpov and Susan Polgar, the women's world chess champion.
I hear through the grapevine that she won two games and two were ties. The chess aficionados who were sitting near me tonight were discussing how quickly they played.
There was tons of school kids from all over the place playing chess, too.
There was a parade, during which I understand Gorabachev walked and visited and then made an impromptu speech. My friend, Greg, was there and took these photos. I'm sure he'll be posting more at www.thelope.blogspot.com.
Lindsborg is a community about 45 minutes from here and a fascinating place to visit. I've spent considerable time there over the years.
It's a Swedish community and well known for its appreciation of the arts, particularly music. When I worked at Radio Kansas we were often at Bethany College recording events, including the yearly Messiah festival that is broadcast all over the country.
Tonight's activities were held in Presser Hall, which also hosts many other activities. It's a beautiful facility.
Bethany conferred an honorary degree on Gorbachev and ending the evening with a children's choir performance. There were numerous opportunities to see people in native Swedish dress.
Lindsborg is a testament to what a few people who are devoted to their community can accomplish. I'm fortunate to live nearby and be able to enjoy all it brings to the quality of life in this area.
It's not every day one gets a chance to hear a former world leader speak, much less the architect of the fall of communism. I'm so glad I went to hear him.