Pine Nuts: Fulbright Scholars from 47 countries arrive in America |

Pine Nuts: Fulbright Scholars from 47 countries arrive in America

The future of our world shines ever so bright, and the good energy is ever so palpable, as we welcome 75 Fulbright Scholars from 47 countries to America. These are the best and the brightest and they will do great things.

Lake Tahoe is a gateway for these young superstars, thanks to the Northern Nevada International Center and University of Nevada, Reno. For some of them Lake Tahoe is their first daylong glimpse of America. They dive into Tahoe’s frigid blue waters headlong, and right out again, except for a hearty few, who continue to paddle around shouting, “Zadroozboo!” or something like that.

A young man from Ukraine named Paul invited Mark Twain (my disguise) to visit his village, a cultural hub of Ukraine. He explained to me that their way of fighting off depression caused by the war in the east is to embrace culture, music, visual arts and performing arts. His description reminded me of Woodstock fifty years ago, when our young people invented their own cultural escape from news of the war in Vietnam.

Paul brought a musical instrument with him that must have been three meters long, I don’t know how he got it on the plane. He said they use it to call across the Ukraine mountainsides when someone dies. I raised my eyebrows but elected to withhold my questions, as this was too delicate a matter for me to pursue in such a cheerful environment.

When these young scholars take off on a scavenger hunt they play together and laugh like children from the same family, which, actually, they are.

In asking several Fulbrighters about their concerns, number one was, “Security.” Most institutions of higher learning have apps that alert you when there is an emergency, but that is of little comfort to someone from Japan, to whom a mass shooting must be a difficult thing to imagine.

Another concern I heard was, “How do I deal with homeless people?” All I could think to say was, “Unless you are majoring in social services, I would suggest you be as agreeable as possible and keep moving.” I had a homeless person in St. Louis ask me for a dollar once when I was on my way to a lecture as Mark Twain. I gave him a dollar and he said, “You’re Tom Sawyer, ain’t you! I gave him another dollar.

Getting back to Lake Tahoe, during dinner at Valhalla I remarked to the young lady next to me, “I’m loving this music, I wonder what country it’s from.”

She whipped out her smartphone, and said, “Nigeria.”

A young lady from Kosovo thanked me for the bombing raids of 1999 that saved her country. I confessed it was a little after my time, but I accepted the compliment anyway.

These Fulbright Scholars will restore your faith in mankind. Do they get any press? Hardly. They will get their press when they earn their Nobel Prizes.

There are no words to express the elation that overwhelms you when you see citizens from 47 countries enjoying each other’s company and sharing their ideas. The scene made me think of Huckleberry, who said to himself, “What you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards the others.”

My favorite question? “Mr. Twain, can I stay here at Tahoe, hang with you, and take my courses online?”

“No, son, you have to go to Harvard.”

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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