Tahoe Pine Nuts: 60 reasons to be hopeful with Fulbright Scholars
On Thursday last, I was bequeathed the honor of welcoming 60 Fulbright Scholars to America. Lake Tahoe was their gateway to America before fanning out to their respective universities to engage their PhD studies.
These gifted students came together in Tahoe City from 50 different countries, from Burkina Faso and Burma, to St. Lucia And Mongolia. These are the best and the brightest, heading to Stanford, Harvard and so many great schools in-between.
As the Ghost of Mark Twain, I had to confess to them that I am as unlettered as the backside of a tombstone, but have gained worlds of knowledge at second hand, none of it correct. I encouraged them to study hard, fall in love, get married, have beautiful, smart and creative babies, stay in America and RUN FOR OFFICE!
But should they decide to return to their motherland, or inhabit a new land, it doesn’t really matter because wherever they go, they are going to make the world a better place, and I am going to visit all of them.
To be in the company of these high-energy kids for an afternoon is one of the most uplifting experiences one can have. It makes you want to join the Peace Corps, or Greenpeace, or the United Nations Peace Keeping Force, or Doctors Without Borders if they would accept doctors without licenses.
The American architects of this Tahoe gateway greeting are Dr. Carina Black, Courtney Kiley and Michael Graf of the Northern Nevada International Center at UNR. They had the imagination to create a scavenger hunt that divides the group into six teams to perform at a half dozen stations and receive a number of toothpicks as rewards for their knowledge as it relates to Lake Tahoe, or in my case, Mark Twain.
Then prior to dinner, with toothpicks in hand, the teams are instructed to erect the tallest structures possible with marshmallows. Well, you never saw kids take to a task like that. They employ alpha helixes and structures of protein to heighten their marshmallow-toothpick towers, and they do it with panache and élan. The team that won let out a whoop that might have been heard in Nigeria.
One gentleman from Kazakhstan confided, “Mr. Clemens, I do so wish I could stay right here at Lake Tahoe, and take my classes online.”
These 60 exemplary students did not make the news today, but they will be making the news someday. Meanwhile, they will be spreading goodwill, sound thinking and compassion that travel and education inculcates. They will be goodwill ambassadors for the rest of their lives wherever they go, and in doing so, will convert many people prone to violence to law abiding, peace loving citizens.
Yes, this intoxicating mix of nationalities, religions and political sway made me wish for a day when we will be inter-married to the point that all the world’s children will be beautiful in the eyes of everyone, and nobody will be capable of labeling them.
In closing, we wish you every success, Fulbright Scholars of 2015, wherever life takes you.
To learn more about McAvoy Layne, who’s spent many of his years at Lake Tahoe impersonating Mark Twain, visit http://www.ghostoftwain.com.