Saturday, August 30, 2008

RX for Foreign Dignitaries

For about 30 years I served as host for the United States Information Agency ‘International Visitor Program.’ This was a program that brought foreign dignitaries or influentials to the United States for a 30-day tour of the country to better know the US, its people and culture. If they wanted to visit to the Northwest I would get a call as I did one day “Drake, would you be willing to host a 3-day visit by the Minister of Fisheries of Morocco? “Sure, send me the resume and I will organize his appointments.”

When I got the resume and found out the interests of Minister A, I called one of the members of our Port Commission, Ed Griemsmann, who was a retired Air Force pilot. Ed agreed to escort Minister A on his tour of the local fishing industry, the largest freezer plant in the world, the Alaska Ferry terminal, etc, etc. I had pointed out to Ed that Minister A had listed in his resume “President, Private Pilot’s Association of Morocco.” “That’s interesting,” said Ed, “I’ll take him up for a ride.” Ed owned a bi-plane that he kept at the local airport.

On the afternoon of the last day of Minister A’s visit Ed asked if he would like to go for a ride in a bi-plane. “Oh, that would be nice.” He innocently replied and went with Ed to the airport. What Ed did not tell him was that he was a stunt pilot. I leave it to your imagination what Ed did with this distinguished foreign dignitary! Rolls, loops, dives, drops, flying upside-down, etc. "A" claimed he thoroughly enjoyed the ride but I did not know how much until I got a phone call from someone in the State Dept. several weeks later.

“Drake, you did it again. We had an interview with Minister A before he left for Morocco and found out that after a 30-day tour of the United States all he wanted to talk about was Bellingham. Tell me, Drake, who the hell was that pilot?”

Maybe we should do the same with all visiting Ministers of State! It might help our foreign relations. Thanks, Ed.

(Ed died last week and I am posting this story on his obituary blog.)


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