Saturday, November 7, 2009


I've been thinking over the last few days of what has happened in the world over the last twenty years and how it's dovetailed with my own life.

November 9, 1989 was a tremendous day--the day the Berlin Wall came down. It was a few weeks before Thanksgiving in my senior year of high school, and we were talking about it nonstop in my European history class with Mrs. Parker. (She liked to say that she had much in common with Queen Elizabeth 1, being a strong woman with red hair.) For me, it was an amazing but not totally unexpected moment. I had spent the previous year in Model UN representing the USSR and Hungary, so I had been following the progress of history in Eastern Europe. I was just a kid, had never been overseas, but the thrill of reading about momentous events in world history as they happened was one that I will never forget. It was a feeling that lasted though the late 90s, when I wrote a thesis on Russian foreign relations and worked on technical assistance programs in the former USSR. (Foreign Policy magazine has a gallery of photos from the year.)

It's hard to believe that it was twenty years ago. There was so much optimism about the future of humanity. Francis Fukuyama wrote about "the end of history." The only sour taste for me was hearing about how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. He and Margaret Thatcher were did very important things, no doubt--in particular, recognizing Gorbachev as an agent of change and giving him credibility. But I've got to think that Gorbachev and his allies had a lot more to lose if things had happened differently. Gorby, we easily forget, was temporarily toppled by a coup two years later. He's still reviled in his own country for giving away the Soviet empire.

And ten years ago, I had just moved back from New York. The Yankees had just won a world championship under Joe Torre in the old ballyard. I was back in Washington working after finished graduate school, interned for AIG, and interviewed for a job in the World Trade Center. I think often about how, for very different reasons, neither of those edifices exist any more. I'm grateful for those experiences, but have come out of the last decade with a great sense of faith in how things have worked out, and how they will hopefully continue to do so.

I didn't have a cell phone, didn't use e-mail that much--how different things were then. Which is why it's so interesting to me that the Yankees have just won the World Series for the first time in nine years. I will confess that I'm a long-time Yankee fan. My primary allegiance is to the Nationals--I waited 33 years for a hometown team--but have rooted for the Yanks since I was a kid. So it made me very happy to see Derek Jeter and the lot win for the first time in a long time.

So, I think this is one long meditation on "plus qu'il change, plus que c'est le meme chose." I'm continually tickled by the order of things, and count my blessings. I'll hopefully be doing the same thing twenty years from now.

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