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Question of the Day
As a poor college student, the German ambassador got a scholarship to a school in Idaho and fulfilled his dream of seeing the America that saved his country with massive reconstruction aid after World War II.
Today, Ambassador Klaus Scharioth travels in style as one of Washington’s leading foreign diplomats. However in 1967, he arrived in New York with pocket change and set out for Caldwell, Idaho, on a five-day trip on a Greyhound bus.
A year later, after finishing his studies at Albertson College, he and a classmate traveled in a 1955 pickup truck and slept in national parks on a 13,000-mile odyssey across the country.
“We crisscrossed the United States, saw the incredible beauty of this immense country, talked to Americans from all regions and all walks of life,” he said in a commencement speech at the college earlier this month.
On one of their overnight camp-outs, Mr. Scharioth and his friend, Fritz Attaway, who also attended the graduation ceremony, were awakened “by a big animal with glowing eyes — some kind of huge cat.” On another morning, grizzly bears invited themselves to breakfast.
Mr. Scharioth told the story of his travels in the United States to urge the graduates to visit other countries, learn foreign languages and, above all, he said, “Take risks; don’t take the easy road.”
The ambassador said his desire to see the United States arose from his experiences growing up in postwar Europe.
“When I was born in Germany in 1946, people there were hungry. Cities lay in ruins. The country was devastated and divided. The future looked grim,” he said.
“It was America who came to our help. You did not care who had begun World War II. You created the Marshall Plan and sent care packages that helped to feed the children in my home city of Essen, as it did France or Britain.”
Mr. Scharioth also cited the Berlin airlift, which broke the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, President Kennedy’s visit to Berlin when he declared himself a Berliner and President Reagan’s demand that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall.
The ambassador recalled the invaluable support from the first President Bush for the reunification of East and West Berlin.
“And, therefore,” he added, “I’m immensely grateful for what America did, for your generosity, for your foresight and wisdom, for your compassion and your perseverance.”
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