On the evening of June 23rd, the Vermont Council on World Affairs celebrated Bill Mares at the Annual Dinner. The evening kicked off with a lively reception in the Dion Family Student Center at St. Michael’s College. Guests enjoyed refreshments, hors d'oeuvres, and stories shared about Bill. One attendee noted that, “Bill is making international history through beer and bees.” Some of Bill’s personal items were on display for all to see, including his books, honey, and antique Harvard University flag. The reception came to a close with VCWA Chair Leigh Cole introducing the man of the hour, Bill Mares. Bill shared some brief remarks about his connection to the VCWA and more broadly to international affairs.
Guests relocated to the dining room for the second portion of the evening. Our emcee for the night, Bill Schubart, spiced up the evening with his quick wit and tales of international travel. Our executive director, Patricia Preston, started off the dinner with a brief introduction of the event, Bill Mares, and the VCWA. She also took this time to thank our major sponsors of the evening, including our Ambassador sponsor Hanson & Doremus Investment Management and our Diplomat sponsors Tetra Tech ARD, VT Digger, and Food 4 Farmers. Eric Hanson, a VCWA Board Member, welcomed guests and described our three pillar programs: the international visitors exchanges, the Ambassador Series, International Tours, and Speaker Series. While enjoying a delicious dinner and mingling, guests listened to “The Meatpackers,” a local Vermont Band. Their self-proclaimed genre of music is entitled “Sensitive New Age Redneck,” which combines elements of country, bluegrass, gospel, folk, and many other styles of music.
After dinner, our guest speakers all shared memorable anecdotes about Bill. Christine O’Donnell, a teacher at CVU, “came up with one word for all of that stuff that he does: authroholic.” In addition to emceeing, Bill Schubart also spoke. He “was pleased to be asked to honor an old, young friend. Bill’s mind is relentlessly young.” Ralph Swenson, a former college administrator at UVM, and longtime running partner of Bill’s, rightly stated that, “Bill is truly an example of an engaged citizen, one we can all be proud to call our neighbor in Vermont.” Bill Mares himself gave a thought-provoking speech. Bill has been incredibly dedicated to international relations and yet, he humbly noted that “we’ve all been 802-Diplomats sometime in our lives.” After speaking, Bill received his certificate and a leather travel bag from Patricia, who then gave a closing statement in which she thanked guests for attending and encouraged them to become members of the VCWA. Several attendees enjoyed an after party full of laughter at Foam Brewers. Overall, the evening was delightful. We would like to give a big thanks to our sponsors, VCWA team, and especially Bill Mares himself who made it possible.
Honoree Bill Mares
May I welcome you to the 9th annual VCWA dinner. I’ve been privileged to serve on the board in two eras 35 years apart.
The council has helped me maintain an interest in foreign affairs that began as a child, and brought me to over 60 countries.
Within the Council I have tried to pay back the hospitality I received in dozens of countries abroad. I enjoyed hanging out with Russian cartoonists, hosting Trivia events, practicing my Spanish with Colombians and my very modest Arabic with Syrians, and listening to great speakers.
As a recent co-chair of the Council with Eric Hanson, I was blessed. He did most of the work and I was the pretty face.
The Council was founded in 1952 by Sen. Warren G. Austin and friends. Austin served as first US ambassador to the UN, where he made one of his most memorable comments: At a juncture when Arabs and Jews were in full cry against one another, an exasperated Austin exclaimed “Why can’t you just settle your differences in a good Christian manner?”
In its early days, the council was one of the few games in town to bring “Vermont to the World and the World to Vermont.” Today, there are all manner of and non-profits organizations and colleges, with an international focus do work with water, refugees, land mines, student exchanges, and the like.
The Council’s greatest work remains, that of bringing foreign visitors to Vermont for specific enquiries such as- forestry practices, environmental concerns water protection, handicap access. Many of you have hosted these visitors, and can testify to the richness of that experience.
In addition we have a Speakers Series, and an Ambassador Series where Ambassadors to the U.S. visit individuals states to educate themselves, and share their perspectives. We’ve also begun International Tours, two of them very successful tours to Cuba, legally. Fifteen years ago I had to do it illegally!
Living actively in a global world has never been more important. That’s why we’re so grateful for your support.
The VCWA doesn’t build walls; we knock them down!
TO DINNER: TRAVEL AND BOOKS
Thanks to Eric Leigh, Tricia, and VCWA board for this signal honor. Thank you all for coming. Thanks too, to my loving wife Chris who is now in England visiting her two sisters. She has been the anchor of my life for 45 years.
The poet Alexander Pope had a couplet that fits my feelings for this evening. “Now comes gentle Adam with an awkward shame/ to do good by stealth and blush to find it fame....or INFAME as these roasters have testified so enthusiastically!”
Probably all of us have some connections with foreign affairs and you show this by being here this evening. Mine have been perhaps a bit more diverse, but we’ve all been “802-Diplomats” sometime in our lives.
It was my parents through their own stories, who launched my brothers and me into the world at large. My father spent his college junior summer shoveling coal on a cattle boat to Europe. Most vividly he remembered traveling through Germany during their terrifying hyper inflation--He brought back a receipt from a bierstube for a bratwurst and beer for 50 million marks!
In the early 30s my mother studied in Germany and worked in the Austrian Ministry of Education as the Nazis were gaining power.
She went on to be an ardent interventionist in the late 1930s giving speeches in the St. Louis area, a hotbed of isolationist and pro-German sentiment. My father supported her after the Munich Conference betrayed Czechoslovakia, the land of his father. After the war, she turned her aim to the Soviet threat and wrote a primer on Communism with the red-meat title of KNOW YOUR ENEMY, which was translated into 12 languages for USIS.
Coming from a long line of teachers and ministers, my mother enjoined her sons with injunctions like this from St. Luke’s Gospel.”To whom much is given, from him shall much be required.”
I often remember my chemical engineer father through his cigar smoke and his aphorisms. “The steam that tooted the whistle never turned a wheel.” An expert is a person who avoids all the minor errors as he sweeps forward to the grand fallacy.” More germane to this occasion was another: ”The only things worth spending money on, are travel and books.”
My first paid job at the age of seven was clipping New York Times, for articles on foreign affairs which were marked by my mother. I cut them out with a set of shears and put them in the big accordion folders. My pay? 5 cents apiece.
In 1954 when I was 13. My father took 3 months (!) between jobs and our family of five went to Europe by boat, taking our big Ford station wagon. We drove around much of Western Europe. It was only 9 years after V-E Day and blocks of German cities were still in ruins while rationing was still in effect in Great Britain.
Our parents seemed to have friends everywhere which enriched the trip still more. Each family member had a job, mine was reading up the history of places we’d visit each day. Our parents encouraged us to go off on our own, plying streets cars in Munich, the Underground in London and museums everywhere. At the end, we flew across the English Channel in a two-car air taxi and landed at a former RAF landing field used in the Battle of Britain.
My next big trip was a college choral tour of Asia.
In the summer of 1961, we came, we sang, and musically, we conquered Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Greece. We stayed with local families about half the time. We gave 36 formal concerts and numerous informal ones in sixty > days. We performed for crowds of 2-3,000 in concert halls and for small > groups on street corners or in train stations. We sang IN the Taj Mahal, and at the BASE of the Parthenon in Athens. For our repertoire of 100 pieces we prepared two folk songs and the national anthem for every country a practice which earned us extra applause at every stop. Throughout the tour’s 25,000 miles I felt the power of performance and confirmation that it is better to give than receive.
After college came the Marines, then study in Germany, and travel throughout Europe including the Soviet Union. I arrived in Moscow one month after Gary Francis Powers was shot down in his U-2 spy plane.
I hoped to join diplomatic service, but the State Department told me that I wasn’t their type. UNLIKE Carl Cundiff my graduate school classmate sitting over there.
Disappointed, I tried banking for one year, and law school for two months. (Then) I fell into journalism and photo-journalism and that made all the difference. That would give me tools and the ability to travel for work to places like Norway, Israel, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico and, and elsewhere.
In Yugoslavia I interviewed the dissident Milovan Djilas who had dissected Communism in his book THE NEW CLASS. Thus, I got to shake the hand that shook the hand of Josef Stalin!
On most trips I was accompanied by the stern visage of John Calvin who enjoined me always to MAKE something of that travel.
One less-driven friend, however, reminded me that the humorist H.L. Mencken defined a Calvinist as a person, in whose heart, there lurks the haunting fear, that someone, somewhere, just might be having a good time!
In 1971 once again, luck broke down my door. I was working for a Chicago newspaper when I ran into one of my college professors. He said he was planning a 1200-mile camel trek across northern Saudi Arabia. When I told him I was a photographer, he said abruptly: “Do you want to go along?” After five seconds deliberation, I said “Sure!”
Professor William Polk’s rationale to the Saudis was to travel through the Northwestern region where lived the the pre-Islamic poet Lebid’s ibn Rabiya. He would then do a modern translation of Lebid’s most famous poem., “The Golden Ode.” My jobs was to shoot photos for all its 72 verses.
During these hot days and chill nights I came to understood something of what the early church ascetics experienced in the desert-- to be simultaneously as tiny as a grain of sand and as infinite as the universe. With four Bedouin -crypto-guides, who had never been on this route, we had some of the usual adventures of exploratory travel--dying camels, getting lost and running out of water.
But we made it to Amman, Jordan, amid the gunfire of Black September’s revolt against King Hussein’s government. and then to Beirut where we were Interviewed by a Christian Science Monitor reporter. We ended up writing two books about the trip. In retrospect, it was a peaceful trip, impossible to repeat today. For example our route took is through the Najaf town of Bureida, where eight of the 9/11 hijackers were born.
In the mid-1970s I had a fellowship with Adlai Stevenson Institute and spent four months in East Africa on working on an Environmental conference for sub-Saharan Countries.
In 1998, I took a Memorable trip to World War battlefields of France and Belgium, with son Nick and my father-in- law who retraced his steps across N. France as a combat historian. In 9 days, we visited the Normandy beaches, St. Lo, then on to the First World War trenches of the Somme, Verdun, and Chateau-Thierry We finished in Belgium at Bastogne, and Waterloo.
15 years later I would use some of these places in my classes and later still, in a book on war memorials, with UVM professor William Lipke called GRAFTING MEMORY.
Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, I fell under the spell of Rick Peyser, whom I got to know through marathon running. Rick was the Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach at GMCR. I was so awed by his level-headed generosity, passion and influence in the coffee industry that I persuaded him to tell his story in the book, BREWING CHANGE.
With his guidance I began going to Central America to study Spanish and volunteer. Rick’s crusade was to show the coffee industry, even with Fair Trade and organic certification farmers didn’t make enough to feed their family year-round.
Beekeeping became my personal crusade, but through lateral information arbitrage, not gringo intrusion. My goal was to hook up existing Hispanic beekeepers with coffee farmers to help them build additional income.
My other beekeeping flight abroad was with Gen. Dubie and the VT National Guard on a civilian-military exchange with Vermont’s sister country of Macedonia!
Let me close with some foreign work nearer to home:
As you heard from Chris O’Donnell, I had my flaws as a teacher. But I was proud to design a class on American Foreign Policy which proved popular. I loved turning all the students into intellectuals, that is, in Arthur Schlesinger’s happy phrase--people at home with ideas. One trick I sprang again and again was to have accomplished friends come to speak to my classes, like Haviland Smith, Steve Kiernan, Eric Hanson, etc. There were so many, in fact that on a teacher hiring panel, Chris told the applicant that if he got the job, all he needed from ME was my Rolodex.
For 10 years I’ve done over 175 commentaries on VPR One-fifth of them have dealt with affairs abroad, travel, people events.
Finally came service on this board of the VCWA and the board of Food 4 Farmers which Rick Peyser founded.
Our sons have happily lived and worked abroad. Nick, here spent six years in Latin America. His brother has been living in Thailand for 12 years and now works for a Swiss, Chinese, American company, partially founded by a kindergarten classmate from Hinesburg, Nate Anderson.
Looking back, I tried to learn and do something useful on every trip, to practice my individual version of “soft power,” I tried to engage with people, whether they was beekeepers, or brewers, or coffee farmers or students.
Living actively in a global world has never been more important. Blustering calls to”make America great again” instead make for a dangerous and self-destructive zero-sum game.
The mission of the Vermont Council on World Affairs is to promote awareness and understanding of the world and its people, places and cultures through education and engagement, to BE 802 Diplomats.
We shouldn’t build walls; we should knock them down!
That’s what the Vermont Council On World Affairs is all about!
Guest Speaker: Bill Schubart
“What a pleasure to be here tonight to at the Vermont Council on World Affairs dinner to honor an old, young friend. When Kate and I arrived, we scanned the surroundings for ICE officials, but saw none and entered.
I say, ‘young’ because, although, Bill usually acts his age, his mind is relentlessly young. His curiosity about interesting courses of inquiry, people, and his eagerness to engage and express new ideas has all the hallmarks of wisdom with none of the deficits of age.
I want also to convey my great respect and affection for Christine, his sage and patient wife of 45 years. Chris’s landmark book, Suspended Worlds: Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England graces our library shelves at home and is often pulled out and shared with friends. It’s not only a beautiful and unique cultural document, it brings to life a segment of our past that defined for many of us our most unique community meeting places.
In thinking of what to say tonight, I had no trouble coming up with ideas. But the writers task, alas, is not to create words but to distill them into terse and meaningful narrative. This is hard with Bill.
I went to the usual metaphor… a Renaissance man but that didn’t fit. I tried on Baroque for his love of Bach, but that was too limiting, and then Rococo, but that was too frivolous, I even tried Bauhaus, but that was too uncomfortable. Bill is Bill and defies any easy characterization.
He’s a writer/collaborator on some sixteen books, a well-published journalist, a full-throated oratorio singer, a marathon runner, a nationally known apiarist, and a manufacturer of fermented ‘suds,’ as we used to call beer, back in the sixties when there were only five beers and they all tasted the same. I gave up beer for bourbon and thrived, or at least I thought I was thriving.
Of all these attributes, to me, Bill’s greatest contribution is also our highest social calling… a teacher of our children. I taught French at Mt. Abraham in Bristol the year it opened. I was 23, married with two children and badly needed to make a living. I taught seven out eight classes a day to 175 junior high and high school students. Those were the days when a second language was required of all students. In my second-year teaching, I earned $6200 and couldn’t make a go of it, so went to the dark side… the record industry, where I lost even more money.
I loved teaching and learned from the older, tough women with whom I taught what a vital calling it is. They cared not a whit for their student’s self-esteem, only that they learned. Their classrooms were not ‘safe spaces,’ they were places of learning.
We will hear more about Bill’s years teaching history at CVU from Christine O’Donnell. In my view, this is one of Bill’s greatest contributions and the greatest contribution any of us can make… the teaching and raising of the children who will take our place in this troubled world.
So, I again welcome you all to the Vermont Council on World Affairs Dinner in honor of Bill Mares.”