Mission to Moscow (A Preview)

I’ve been absent the last few days because I was making my way to and from Moscow, Idaho, where I was the commencement speaker for the New Saint Andrews College class of 2021. Quite a remarkable little college, punching way above its weight class. More about this in due course.

I’m calling my trip “Mission to Moscow” after the once famous but now forgotten Joseph Davies book Mission to Moscow from 1941. Davies was FDR’s very pro-Stalin ambassador to the Soviet Union, and anti-Communists dubbed his book Submission to Moscow. Need I mention that Hollywood made a movie out of it? Even IMBD summarized it thus: “Ambassador Joseph Davies is sent by FDR to Russia to learn about the Soviet system and returns to America as an advocate of Stalinism.” Seriously—check out the poster for it (left), especially the tag line.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Moscow, Idaho, has to be the complete opposite of Russia’s Moscow, because it’s in Idaho. But you’d be wrong. Moscow is the home of the University of Idaho, so it’s a typical college town, with a Soviet-style city council. As such, NSA College represents the home of the dissidents and refuseniks.

I’ll post up my complete commencement remarks over the weekend after I revise my text to include my last minute revisions and couple of improvisations, but I’ll offer as a preview my first piece of practical advice (since commencement speeches are supposed to offer those) for the graduates:

By the way, how much trouble could be avoided if we simply ignored most ideas that come out of Germany. And herewith my first piece of obligatory commencement advice: A sage friend of mine [it was Mike Uhlmann] once suggested, that when you hear some nifty new idea to improve the world from some celebrated “progressive” thinker, you should slowly repeat the idea aloud, in a German accent, and see if it still sounds as good. “Your fac-cine paperz plis!”

It turns out there is a great German term for this kind of progressive busy-body: Weltverschlechter, which translates to “world-worsener.” Keep it handy for Scrabble.

In the meantime, for today’s moment of Zen, here’s 45 seconds of this morning’s fly-by of Mount Baker in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington state, en route back to Seattle with a pal on his company airplane.