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Nixon and Cold War politics, Finland 1975

English: Richard Nixon boarding Army One upon ...

I went there right after Ford pardoned Nixon and while I was there we got out of Vietnam.

I had been a very liberal child of the sixties living in Massachusetts.  I was in junior high when all that was happening but I still marched in the war protest.  I was very critical of the U.S. ’cause that was kind of cool.  I was just enthralled with the whole socialist system in Finland where you can have a baby for ten dollars and nobody’s poor and this and that.

And so I had this tremendous youthful idealism.  Well, you can imagine that these sort of relatively more well-to-do Swedo-Finns, in this pretty nice suburb were very opposite of that.  It’s like, “We need to be more like the U.S., and those of us who work really hard and make something of ourselves ought to get more.  But here everything’s too level.”


Richard Nixon meets Leonid Brezhnev June 19, 1...

Richard Nixon meets Leonid Brezhnev June 19, 1973 during the Soviet Leader’s visit to the U.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



It was something that really surprised me.  Now, as a grownup, I can totally get it.  I think the tax structure’s a little screwed up.  Here I work so hard and I’ve risen to the top of this company and I still don’t make that much more and all that kind of thing, and that is not a perspective that I appreciated particularly when I was eighteen or nineteen.

Then there was the whole thing about the Soviet Union, and that kind of came into play.  I was very critical of the U.S., and my [host] dad was very supportive of the U.S. because it was the countervailing evil empire, and so people were really impressed with the U.S. in general.

I’d spent the whole summer watching Nixon go down in flames with Watergate, and when I got there it was like, “Well, you know we think Nixon was really great because he opened China.”  They just had a more global perspective.  It was sort of like, “Yeah, you know, politicians, there’s always corruption, and they always have their scandals and stuff, but look what he really did for the world.”  That was a very different perspective.  I couldn’t have found anybody to say anything good about Nixon by the time I went to Finland, and there they were taking the bigger picture.  I think it’s kind of how history is judging him.

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I heaved into the North Atlantic


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I kind of drank too much when I came back to the States.

They put us on a cruise ship from Helsinki to Copenhagen.  You leave out on a Friday and arrive at the dock Sunday morning.  So and it’s really kind of a party barge, and we didn’t have state rooms.

They have up on the upper deck retractable ceilings, and at night they would just pull those shut and you just kind of grab one of these wrestling mats and grab a blanket and a pillow.  I can remember that when you got American dollars, they’ll serve you.

So I thought I would try to have one of every kind of drink I could think of, and that didn’t sit too well.

I ended up heaving it all into the North Atlantic.

But oh boy, you know, the school of higher education.  That was a good trip.

I think one of the things about Finnish people is they’re a very private people. They really don’t share their views and their opinions and their emotions that readily.  You know the thing, too, is my Finnish mother, she cried when I left, and to this day I’ve got a picture there at the dock.  I thought that was probably the sweetest thing was somebody crying cause she was gonna miss me. She came to like me a lot, I guess.


Ken Young Leaving Finland

Ken Young Leaving Finland


I think I was ready to come home.

Yeah, I was ready to come home because, you know, it’s kind of like vacation.  I was ready to get back to my routine, because most of our lives we spend working and even as a kid we spent a fair amount of our time in our routine with our school and with our family, and to go over there and do that was awesome.  Two months was good.  I’m always amazed that kids can go over there on a full year’s program.

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