Talking Big Ideas in a Small Country

LUXEMBOURG. It is one of the world's smallest countries, sometimes forgotten amid the rivalries and power-plays of the larger European nations. It is not uncommon to hear a comedian or political pundit make fun of its size and global insignificance.

Yet this tiny nation, filled with fertile valleys and world-famous wineries, played host last month to a commemoration of one of the century's most important international policies--the Marshall Plan.

It was at a Harvard Commencement 40 years ago that Secretary of State George Marshall announced the beginning of the program, which sent massive aid toward the reconstruction of post-war Western Europe. Harvard has never forgotten its historical tie to this program.

And so it was with a clear sense of the past that Harvard students, professors and administrators journeyed to Luxembourg over Christmas break to represent the United States at the conference, attended by students, scholars and diplomats from eight countries.

The idea for the conference itself began at Harvard last year, when Luxembourg Prime Minister Jacques Santer, in Cambridge to speak at Harvard's Model United Nations, first presented the idea of a commemoration to student organizers.

The idea was agressively pursued by Alexander Shustorovich '88, who found finance from the government of Luxembourg and organized the exchange last summer, said Drory S. Tendler '88, a delegation member.

INITIALLY meant for Harvard students only, the idea blossomed into an international gathering designed to "to revive a spirit of cooperation between America and Europe," said Shustorovich, who organized the Harvard delegation's trip.

"The spirit of the Marshall Plan has been obscured by conflicts with NATO," Shustorovich said.

The conference was attended by about 400 scholars and statesmen from Europe and the United States, including the prime minister himself, the foreign minister, the mayor, and the heir to the throne of Luxembourg.

While the gathering in Luxembourg clearly had symbolic significance, organizers also designed the conference for maximum educational benefit, as each day's schedule was packed with seminars and receptions.

"The conference followed a rigorous academic schedule, with seminars starting at 9 a.m. in the hall of the European Parliament," Shustorovich said. "People were free in the evening, but receptions usually continued until 1 a.m. People couldn't keep up with the work; there were 50 to 60 hours of seminars over a period of five days."

"The seminars discussed the history and economics of the Marshall Plan from various perspectives, along with its current implications and applications to Central America," said Jessica Marc '90.

"The seminars were followed by question and answer periods," said Tendler.

Professor of History Charles S. Maier, one of the Harvard professors attending the conference, gave a seminar on both how the policies of the Marshall Plan could apply today and the pre-conditions that were necessary for its original success.

"In between seminars we went to places like the castle of Bourglinster, where we had dinner," Tendler said.

THE VISIT to the Bourglinster castle, a 12th century fortress, provided one of the more memorable cultural experiences for the Harvard troupe.

"It was amazing. There was a military string quartet that played at a dance following the dinner," said Michael E. Raynor '90.

Isobel A. Jones '89 said she talked to the son of the Archduke of Luxembourg at the dinner and danced with the commanding general of the Dutch armed forces following the dinner.

"On the day before we left we also visited the cities of [Luxembourg's] wine growing valley, where we tasted their wines, said Tendler, adding, "Aside from the fun, though, it was a tremendous learning experience."

"Arthur Hartman, former U.S. ambassador to France and the Soviet Union, was there, along with other former government officials that put the Marshall Plan together," said Raynor. "It was very informative. When you're dealing with people that were there, you can't help but learn a lot, even just by osmosis."

"I had a chance to talk at an impersonal level with ambassador Hartman," Tendler said. "If I had read 10 books I couldn't have learnt as much about U.S-U.S.S.R. relations and Gorbachev's new reforms."

Tendler, whose parents were born in Soviet bloc countries, said the commeration of the Marshall Plan was especially important for him. Historians have claimed that the success of the Marshall Plan in rebuilding Europe economically helped to keep totalitarianism out of Western Europe.

"The Marshall Plan represents for me and my family a celebration of freedom. In this sense, the experience was an emotional one for me too," Tendler said.

THE BULK of the expense for the conference was paid for by the Luxembourg government, said Shustorovich, who added that "additional funding...came from private and government sources. A token amount was also donated by Harvard."

Of the 30 Harvard students who attended this Christmas conference, 20 were selected by a committee of undergraduates chaired by Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III in early November. The other 10 were the members of the selection committee, which was selected "from people either from Model U.N. when the prime minister came or from Harvard's Model Congress," said selection committee member Alex L. Bangs '88.

In addition to the Harvard faculty members and undergraduates representing Harvard, several administrators made the journey, including Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 and Epps.

Although the conference ended on December 22, many students took advantage of the opportunity and stayed in Europe. One student, Rushika J. Fernandopulle '89, is not expected back before January 19.