Mikhail Gorbachev spent the day in Lindsborg today as part of the international Chess for Peace* initiative. Mr. Gorbachev attended the Chess Parade in the morning, held a press conference in the early afternoon, and made a few other appearances around town, notably at a chess match between Anatoly Karpov and Susan Polgar and concluding with an appearance at Presser Hall in the evening.
It’s a long story of how Mr. Gorbachev came to speak in Lindsborg, but the story begins with Mikhail (Misha) Korenman. Misha, a Bethany College professor, ultimately convinced Anatoly Karpov to open the first United States branch of his International School of Chess in Lindsborg. Karpov, in turn, is friends with Mikhail Gorbachev, and having enjoyed his visits to Lindsborg, easily persuaded Gorbachev to visit our fair little town.
We saw Gorbachev speak tonight, along with a capacity crowd of around 1500 people at Presser Hall on the Bethany College campus. He was very engaged and passionate as he answered questions from assistant managing editor of the Wall St. Journal Alan Murray. Topics included questions about Gorbachev’s meetings with President Reagan, his experiences in leading the Soviet Union during a time of so much change and so on. There was much applause when he noted the need for governments around the world to cooperate and work together to solve problems.
At the conclusion of their conversation, Mr. Gorbachev was presented an honorary degree from Bethany College, and the Lindsborg Children’s choir performed a song in honor of his visit. At the very end, two girls, dressed in Swedish costume, presented the former leader of the Soviet Union with flowers for peace. My last memory is of the grandfatherly Gorbie with his arms around the two young women who likely reminded him of his own grandchildren.
From humble farmland beginnings to having his finger on the button to spreading his message of peace around the world; what a journey! When I recall the very real fears of a major nuclear catastrophe present in the early 80’s and consider what Gorbachev and Reagan did to end those fears, I’m very thankful. It was an honor to be able to hear, first hand, his thoughts about the modern international political landscape.
* Chess for Peace is a non-profit organization created with the assistance of world chess champion Anatoly Karpov and is headquartered in Lindsborg, Kansas. The goal of Chess for Peace is to establish long-term relationships between young people from around the world utilizing chess as a vehicle to promote mutual understanding of shared problems.