Tag Archives: Soviet Union
National flag of Finland, Finnish

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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Afghanistan flag

Well, Dave, you’re going to Afghanistan.

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Steve: So then when you decided and you actually did the paperwork and all that, how did your parents feel about it?

David:  I think they were pretty cool.  I think they were pretty encouraging.  My parents in general, with regards to things like sports and general interests, tried to be fairly neutral.  I think there was a philosophical decision, that they’d seen a lot of parents pushing kids this way and that way.  They kind of had a hands-off.  But the fact that they had been involved with AFS, I think, was a tip to me that they were interested in that kind of bigger world vision.


So I think the big shock really was when I found out I was going to Afghanistan. Glossy World Globe


Steve: What was that like? When you found out?

David:  I still recall mom calling me at school, so it would have been at Scottsdale High.  I had a mes sage, “call your mom,” or something.


I called and she said, “Well Dave, I found out where you’re going.”  And I said, “Woo!  Where?”  And she said, “Afghanistan.”


And I think my first reaction was, “Well, where’s that?”  And then she said, “Well, you know I had to look it up, too,” and she described it to me, you know, like it’s west of Pakistan and east of Iran, you know, south of the Soviet Union or something.

So I ran.  I seem to recall hanging up and running to one of the school rooms to look on the globe, and it was just breathtaking because I — I mean, I just assumed that because most AFS students go to Europe or Latin America, that’s what I would do.  So I was kind of, I guess, dumbfounded.  That would be the word.  But excited.  I thought, whoa, I mean, it would be exotic to go anywhere, but to go there was completely unexpected.