Posts tagged Gorbachev

What ELSE Hillary Clinton said in Astana

I remember when I lived in Minneapolis close to Interstate Highway I-94 and 35W in the early 1990s, we had an important dignitary ride by in his black limo. We knew this was a VIP because all the freeways had been closed off that particular Sunday afternoon, we had been warned of this interruption. It was eerie to see what was a usually very busy freeway, was completely silent. But we weren’t as a neighborhood, we all excitedly stood by the fence to watch the black motorcade roll past with great anticipation. I don’t know what we expected to see, certainly with about 4-5 limos, you are NOT going to see the person of interest through dark paned glass.  It was like a parade of one float and when it was over we could say that we saw one of the CARS of the  leader of the former Soviet Union go past us. Yes, it was Gorbachev rolling through Minnesota on that cool day. I won’t ever forget that historic moment but I’m sure Gorbachev won’t remember simply because he had been driven through so many towns and in so many countries all his public life.

Well, the same thing happened here in Astana, Kazakhstan these past couple of days. Except no one was supposed to be out watching because this was actually like a parade of many motorcades with police cars flashing lights in front. Each delegation of the 55 plus countries were driven through the streets in Astana to discuss peace, security and human rights issues. Seems ironic that so much extra police were on hand to make sure that these talks would go without a hitch, meaning NO TERRORISTS allowed! I think it worked!

I’m most interested in what Hillary said especially after her very rigorous meetings with so many people yesterday. She ended up at the U.S. embassy in the evening and shook hands and talked with an American friend of mine. Of course, my friend said that Hillary looked tired but she has a job to do of diplomacy and showing the U.S. best face to this summit conference. I saw this quote about what ambassadors are supposed to do. I believe Hillary as Secretary of State has a different job description.

A 16th century English diplomat Henry Wotton said, ” An ambassador is a man of virtue sent to lie abroad for his country.”

The following is what Hillary said in answer to a journalist’s question.  I found it intriguing.  I got this from the same blog website I got other Hillary info from yesterday:

“And one more question to State Secretary Clinton. It is known that some amendments to the act on cyber space have been adopted in the United States that would entitle the U.S. President to regulate the exchange of information in the Internet. I would like to know more about this concerning the amendments to the act on cyber space. Thank you.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: And I would add…With regard to cyber security and cyber space, the United States is, like many nations, addressing the opportunities and the challenges and the threats that are posed in cyber space. We want the Internet to be a vehicle for the free exchange of information, yet we are well aware of the dangers that can be posed to the misuse of the Internet to all kinds of institutions and networks. And so this is not only a matter of concern for the United States; we think this deserves attention at the highest international levels, and that is beginning to occur.

The following thing that Hillary said is what REALLY surprised me.  That the Afghan students will come to Kazakhstan to study?  I will believe it when I see it!!! (yeah like THAT’s going to happen!)

“Last night, I met with many of the participants who took part in the independent conference of non-governmental organizations that ran parallel with the summit. I was impressed by their effort and energy on crucial challenges, including protecting fundamental freedoms. They know what we all know, that a thriving civil society is a vital building block of democracy, and that disparate, diverse voices must be heard and supported.

In the discussion that I had with both the president and the foreign minister, I thanked Kazakhstan for your support of the international mission in Afghanistan, and for all you are doing to help the Afghan people, particularly the very kind invitation for 1,000 students to continue their education here, in Kazakhstan. This will enable these young people to contribute to Afghanistan’s development. I also thanked Kazakhstan for the recently concluded air transit agreement that will help ensure the delivery of critical resources to Afghanistan, and I welcomed Kazakhstan as the newest member of the International Security Assistance Force, which now includes 49 countries.”

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Encounters with Soviet People (Part I)

The following quotes are from an unpublished book by Frank R. Thoms tentatively titled “Through Their Eyes, Encounters with Soviet People.”  I never met this man who was probably a middle school teacher from, I believe, the East Coast who visited in Kazakhstan in the early 1990s.  I received Mr. Thoms manuscript from my friend and assistant, Tatyana Kazanina, when I was training 30 Peace Corps volunteers in the summer of 1993.  I’m thankful for Mr. Thoms asute observations of what the former Soviet Union educational system was like over 15 years ago because it helps me to understand the university where I am teaching in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Regrettably, my teacher friend, Tatyana Kazanina died May of 1997.  I am not able to ask her how she came to know and have Mr. Thoms writings in her possession.  I hope to meet him one day, to compare notes with him, if he is still alive.

Through Their Eyes, Encounters with Soviet People by Frank R. Thoms


p. 28 – Ï am in a Soviet classroom, I thought to myself, an American visitor with his camera and cranberry Land’s End coat, taking pictures to bring home to show his students.  Pictures of anonymous children filling the room like a wall-to-wall carpet, packed together.  Why should they be crowded together in the largest country in the world, I asked myself.  They had stood up as one, they sat down as one.  They looked at me.  They kept looking.


p. 36 – “…Tatyana invited the students to express their own opinions as they discussed this interpretation…She assumed her students knew the material and invited them to use their knowledge in search of deeper understandings…Nor was I surprised that I had been invited to observe “the best English teacher in the school”(as Anna told me later).  I did not expect, however, to observe a teacher in a Soviet classroom who preferred to listen to her students and to encourage them to express their ideas.  I had understood from my own reading and from what I had learned that morning in the Director’s office that Soviet education was a pressure cooker operating by rote memory and repetition with no time for deliberation.”


p. 40 “Tatyana Popelyanskaya was another story.  She was the best teacher I saw that day, perhaps the best teacher of English I have seen in Soviet schools.  Only one lesson and I had felt her presence in her pupil’s minds.  She dared to ask them to think—before glasnost had opened the way.  I would love to have been her student.  Was she a set-up for vulnerable visitors, the icing on the cake…in a ‘show school?’ She was “the best,”as Anna had said, a little lady on stage in her tidy room…a performer to enamor all observers with the quality of foreign language teaching in the Soviet Union.  I was enamored to be sure, but for different reasons.  She was a teacher.  Not a Soviet teacher but a teacher.  I imagined her with my eighth graders, sitting in our circle, engaging us to think beyond our words, enticing us to discover more than we ventured to find.”


p. 50 “Children learn to learn together from the first year of school.  I was naïve to think that the students would take the initiative to discover their own solution to the giant conflict.  That was not the Soviet way.  It is a given that all Soviet children struggle for peace.  Period…Open-ended approaches are an anathema to Soviet education.  Alternatives, choices, speculation, unresolved outcomes—these do not fit a prescribed curriculum, particularly a national curriculum, one that has been designed and produced at the Ministry of Education in Moscow.  At home my [American] students insist upon creating unique responses; Soviet students, on the other hand, seek to discover what is the right response.”


p. 62 Ëlvira was the outer matryoshka doll of School 185, the face of the school.  More like a Gorbachev than a Brezhnev, she created its image and shaped its thinking and performance.  She held the reins firmly.  It was her school and she knew it.  Her discipline was strict and evident.  Her sharp voice could cut through the bedlam in the corridors at any time, though she rarely chose to use it.  At faculty meetings she chastised those who failed to live up to her standards.  No one was spared.


p. 63 Ïn a society corrupted with hypocrisy and overloaded with rules and regulations, students (and teachers) welcomed opportunities to be defiant.  Pinning buttons under their lapels was one of many such defiances in a system that had ladened their lives with endless demands for proper behavior.  For some of the students defiance was their favorite pastime whether it meant skipping lessons, copying homework, cheating on tests and exams, wearing improper uniforms.  Feigning sickness was the favorite for many, teachers and students alike.

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