In 1994 Vedran Vucic put a message in a bottle and threw it into the ocean. Well, not really but it's a good metaphor. He was starting a debate program for high school students in Yugoslavia. The war was raging there and it seemed an impossible task, yet it was working. There were debaters, debates, and coaches. The first camp took place not far from the border between Serbia and Bosnia, a place where the tanks and soldiers changed insignia and rolled over the border. Vedran and his colleagues had the students make some newsletters, and one of them was in English. He obtained a mailing list of American debate schools and sent the English newsletter to many of them. When I fished that bottle out of the sea, so to speak, I was fascinated by the message. Debate? In Yugoslavia? I knew almost nothing about debate in other countries, but this particular situation seemed very interesting to me. On the top of page three, a Yugoslav student wrote that educational debate seemed very much like a game to him, but a very powerful, logical, communicative game. I was not surprised to see the basic premise of my dissertation placed there, because I had always thought that if anyone looked at academic debate with fresh eyes it would be obvious.
TWO DYNAMIC COACHES - VLADISLAVA & VEDRAN
Vedran had an email address, so I wrote back to him. Soon we were corresponding and sharing ideas, and I was very interested in their work. In 1995 they won the East European championship and I knew they were a force to take seriously. I invited Vedran to send one of his coaches to attend the National Debate Institute (now World Debate Institute) that summer. He sent a man called Tomislav Kargacin. Arrangements were confused on arrival, and Tomislav ended up walking around the campus looking for me after spendig a night in the Sheraton Burlington. We found each other and he attended the program. He was quiet but obviously extremely diligent and well educated. Vedran and I continued to correspond after Tomislav had returned to Yugoslavia, and our bond deepened. In 1996 Djordje Pavicevic, a scholar of philosophy, attended the (still) National Debate Institute, and he impressed me in much the same way, quiet but diligent and intelligent, as he seemed to soak up eveything we and our library had to offer. Vedran seemed very pleased when Djordje returned, and he suggested that Tomislav return for a visit during the school year. Tomislav came for 17 days in 1996, and he became a part of our squad. He went to our meetings, saw our practice debates, and attended the West Point and Queens College tournaments, judging debates and coaching along with the rest of us. It was that visit, working on common ground, which convinced me that there really was something very substantive here, far more than just "international cooperation and understanding," a phrase often used more as a symbol than as substance, often serving as a code word for a merit badge of academc prestige. Then, in December Vedran himself came to Amrerica to visit us for five days, and Jan Hovden and I planned to produce a CD-ROM for debate (a project which still remains unrealized ... but not abandoned) and also pledged future cooperation. Vedran and I had so much in common, even an obsessive interest in radical new music genres and performance art. Vedran demanded that if they could come visit us, we must certaily come to visit him. It seemed fair, but what about the money?
We applied for an international studies grant from our College of Arts & Sciences, which provided money to send two coaches to Yugoslavia. We asked the Student Government Association for funds and we received enough to add two students to our trip, with Vedran's program sponsoring us once we arrived, as we had done for them.
Thus, in the Summer of 1997 Robert Pontbriand, Annalei McGreevy, Jan Hovden, and I journeyed to Yugoslavia for 15 days, and while there we attended a ten day debate camp for about 65 people held in a small mountain village called Jabuka (which means apple). I was also introuced to Sima Avramovic, distinguished professor of law in Belgrade, and we seemed to take an instant liking to each other. Nothing would ever be the same. Vedran had bowed out of the program because of concerns about the stress of the job on his weakened heart, and while we were there we met Radmila Maslovaric, the new director, as well as our past friends Tomislav and Djordje, and more new friends than I could possibly list here. The veil was lifted from my eyes and I suddenly had a new vision of debate which transcended trophies and theories, but focused onstead on people and realities both glorious and tragic.
That summer Radmila sent another outstanding coach, Branka Josimov, to the now properly named World Debate Institute, and as before we were proud to be her sponsors (you get to an American airport and we'll do the rest). In a surprise move, Tomislav (who is, by trade, a teacher of the English language ... which he first learned by reading pulp mystery novels) paid his own way to America and was together with us. That summer we also had students from Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Scotland, and Canada along with Branka and Tomislav from Yugoslavia.
Communication intensified between myself, Radmila, and Sima, and of course I continued my connections with Vedran, Tomislav, Djordje, and many others we had met there. Sima seemed very interested in bringing me to lecture at the Faculty of Law rhetoric program and to assist them in starting up a debate program. Early in 1998 Sima had convinced Radmila to sponsor my airline ticket, and it was decided that I would come for a visit. Political relations between our countries took a turn for the worse, so scheduling was difficult, with even some talk that the government would close down the university to prevent protests over the Kosovo situation. Finally, in April the situation stabilized and it was decided that I would come in early May during our final exam week. The purpose of the trip would be focused on the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law program and lectures about argument and persuasion as well as some assistance wih the university debate program in its start up phase. I burned the midnight oil (and went back on caffeine afer having quit it for a year) to get enough of my term papers graded to allow me to go, and the day after our 1997-98 debate banquet I embarked on this trip.
The following diary was written during the trip. I make no claim that it is objective (what diary is?) and I also take responsibility for all errors including spelling (especially names). I am not writing this so that people will be impressed that I took a trip. I am writing this so that my colleagues everywhere will understand what it is we have been doing and how it has changed all of us. I also hope that it will help to broaden our vision and perhaps, in some small way, allow more of us to realize that debates and debating are becoming and should become a pedagogy for all, not just for the schools and students in America and other developed nations who can afford to do it in its current format. It must reach out -- over the borders created by states, by classes, and by racial and ethnic divisions. We can share and cooperate so that the magic that is the logic and love of debate can permeate the darkest corners of every nation, at peace or a war, and every community, rich or poor, because all people have ideas, have a gift of symbol using (yes, and symbol misusing, as Keneth Burke would say) which provides us with a discursive pedagogy as new as the latest post modern critique and as old as the Socratic dialogue. It only takes people and space, and that exists everywhere. Oh sure, the hotels and dinners and the trophies are nice, but the essential elements are plentiful and inexpensive.
I cannot write this without adding a note about and to George Soros, who started the new debate programs in the former commuist world as well as he new debate programs in the poorest schools in urban America. Much is witten about Soros, but I will have to judge him by his deeds. My life has been forever changed, as have the lives of so many I have met, by this person I have never met. Debating has been waiting, dormantly in its current blooming flower beds, for someone to come along and begin to spread it and the wonder it does for young people and those who work with them. Thanks, Mr. Soros. Our job, now that you have the snowball rolling, is to keep it growing and rolling downhill until it carries us along with it to an open, reasoning, and loving human society. I may not get there with it, but I hope and pray that it will get there. I was over 20 years a debate coach before your snowball gathered me to it, and I have yet to personally receive a cent of salary from your many millions for my efforts, and frankly I don't want any of it, but if you have any extra, I urge you to just continue your current debate programs in all of their facets.
5/3-4/98 Sunday & Monday
Left Burlington in the afternoon, flew to Washington Dulles airport, took 7 hour Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. Frankfurt was a confusing airport. Wouldn't let me take pictures of security guards carrying machine guns. Finally took 2 hour flight to Belgrade. Landed in Belgrade in the pouring rain. Radmila Maslovaric with a colleague of hers named Boris met me and we were off to Belgrade.
BELGRADE FACULTY OF LAW
Arrived at Faculty of Law in Belgrade, and waited in the Faculty Club with juice and talk. Joined by my two hosts, both professors of law, Obrad Stanojevic and Sima Avramovic. I also met Miodrag Jovanovic (known as Mishko), their assistant, who is organizing the debate club. They showed me to my quarters at the school, a lovely guest faculty efficiency apartment with a desk, bathroom, bed, kitchenette (complete with bread, wine, coffee, tea, etc.). We visited for a while and then I excused myself to take a shower and a nap.
MY QUARTERS AT FACULTY OF LAW
I awoke at about 6 PM (noon eastern) and got ready for dinner. Radmila arrived and we chatted while we waited for Sima and Obrad to finish a faculty meeting (voting on new colleagues) and join us. They arrived and we spoke briefly together while we sampled a bottle of scotch they had brought me (Johnny Walker Red).
SIMA AVRAMOVIC & OBRAD STANOJEVIC
We went to dinner at a nearby cafe, where we were joined by the Vice Dean, Emilija Yukadin. It was a wonderful meal, but the conversation was the main dish. I explained how the study of communication is organized in America and they explained to me the organization of a classical European university like theirs, ranks for faculty, etc. Obrad is extremely well informed and seems well acquainted with western expressions and quotations. He had studied extensively in the USA (NYU Law) and also taught there (Loyola New Orleans). We spoke about my lectures as well as the debate I am to help organize. The Vice Dean was very articulate and well informed, and we soon were discussing the popular mind and how people think and make decisions in a global media situation. It was most stimulating. My major error was in ordering too much and eating too slow, since I was enjoying the conversation so much. I returned to my quarters at about midnight and drifted blissfully into sleep.
I awoke feeling rested. I brewed myself a cup of Yugoslavian style coffee. They grind their coffee powder fine, and then mix it with boiling water in a cup. A bit grainy, but potent! Milk and sugar supplied in my kitchenette. I worked on my lecture for tonight and on my diary. Sima stopped by at about 8:30 AM and we went across the street for a some fresh bread and more coffee (yow!). We had a nice chat about the Faculty of Laws, how students prepare to be lawyers, judges, and professors. We spoke about his hopes for his debate club. Sima is excited that students are interested, and most of them first year students. Apparently the high school students from the Soros program had put on a debate about euthanasia, and this had inspired Mishko (short for Miodrag) to start a team, and this was the topic for their first debate held here on campus. Sima showed me the computer lab so that I could send some email as well as the places where I would be lecturing. Sima is very articulate and well informed, as one would expect from a full professor of law here. We talked about political influence in the legal system and in the university, and the stories we shared were very much alike. It was interesting to hear that student evaluations are not really used in retention or pay issues, although Obrad is pushing for this. Sima then dropped me off at my room where I waited for Mishko, who soon showed up.
BELGRADE STREET SCENE
Mishko (Miodrag Jovanovic) stopped by and we had a very productive meeting. We talked about the upcoming Thursday debate on the topic: political correctness is a justifiable form of censorship. The students, he said, are a bit nervous since this will be their first debate in English and the media is expected to be there. He has arranged for me to meet with the debaters at 6:15 PM just before my lecture. He wanted me to help them relax about the event and give them some background on the PC issue as well as advise them on their arguments. Mishko is also a member of a popular band (Nothing but Logopeds [speech teachers] is their name) and he is the lead vocalist. We talked at some length about the music scene and the various music genres. He has a CD coming out within a few weeks, and we agreed to swap CDs later. I took an instant liking to him and we discussed the possibility of someone from his program coming to attend the World Debate Institute in the USA. Mishko then took me back to the computer lab where I sent email messages to Gordie Miller back home and also to Vedran Vucic and Tomislav Kargacin and Mira, all of whom I hope to visit while I am here. Vedran was the previous director of the national debate program and Tomislav and Mira are debate coaches in Novi Sad, with Tomislav having attended WDI twice and having been a part of our debate program during a visit of 17 days in 1996.
BELGRADE STREET TRAM
I had lunch with Obrad Stanojevic. Obrad is a renowned classical legal scholar. We went to a small cafe near the river. The traffic was fairly intense (as it almost always is in Belgrade) and we got to witness a fairly dramatic auto accident after we parked, but no one seemed to be seriously hurt and people did not seem too excited about it, so I took their cue. The restaurant ("pectopah" in Serbian) was cozy and excellent. I am learning that in Serbia meals do not happen quickly. Oh, the service is good and the food comes quickly, but time is taken to savor the food and engage each other in conversation. It wasn't just us, as the tables around us were also not in a hurry. I find Obrad to be a fascinating person and extremely well informed. We shared ideas about family, culture, automobiles, ancient history, and legal education. We had a clear soup made with veal which is a national specialty, along with a delicious salad made from a kind of lettuce I had never tasted before, which was excellent. We also had an unusual sort of meat compote which I was told was the Serbian version of Haggis, which was highly and unusually spiced, and I liked it. In the USA I try to remain a vegetarian (except for Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City and whenever I can get REAL Mexican cuisine), but it is very difficult in Serbia so I am a temporary meat eater while here. My main dish was a selection of grilled meats: chicken breast, two kinds of sausages, and a unusual patty made from pork and cheese with onions and spices, which was quite good. Once again, I was unable to finish my meal, not to mention passing up desert. Obrad took me back to the Faculty of Law, where I soon fell asleep. I am a creature of habit, and the seven hour time difference has been difficult for me to deal with.
On arising at 5:45 PM I reviewed my lecture for the evening before meeting with Mishko at 6:15 PM, and he escorted me to a meeting with the debaters involved in the Thursday debate on the topic, "Resolved: that political correctness is an acceptable form of censorship." I recognized one of the students, Emile, from last Summer, but three debaters were new, and this would be their first public debate. They were very concerned about their English skills and the fact that so many of their friends (not to mention television and radio) were going to be there. Having taken so many novices to their first debate tournament, I pulled out my verbal comforting tools and tried to give them confidence, which they seemed to appreciate but, of course, they will still be nervous. We reviewed their major arguments. They had obviously thought a lot about it and had done considerable research on the internet, since political correctness is not necessarily a highly discussed topic in Serbian literature. This meeting had to be cut short because it was time for my lecture to begin.
AUDIENCE AT PERSUASION LECTURE
Speaking of being nervous, I certainly was. This was my first international university lecture, and Obrad would be translating for me, and I would stop every few sentences for him to translate. My topic was "How People Process Persuasive Messages," and I discussed the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion authored by Cacioppo and Petty. My thought was that while much of it is fairly common sense and easily understandable, it would also be something very new to them. The event took place in what I am told is a classical European university amphitheater, with a large wooden desk on a raised dais, and wooden tables and chairs (beautiful, by the way) rising towards the back of the room. A huge bust in the front of the room was in memory of a past law professor who was executed by the Nazis during WW2 on the campus for speaking out against Nazi justice. It was a packed house, and many of my Belgrade friends from last Summer I had met at the debate workshop in Jabuka came to hear me along with many university students. It was good to have friendly and familiar faces in the audience. I was determined to speak for no more than one hour, though I was unsure of how translation would impact my time allocation. I freely admit that I used every communicative trick in the book to engage, inform, and entertain the audience, and it seemed to go very well. I made numerous references to political persuasion in America, knowing that each reference would also apply to the Yugoslavian political situation. I only occasionally used references to booze and sex as well as politics, and the audience seemed engaged. Obrad's translation was obviously excellent, as audience members who were patiently listening while I spoke seemed to nod enthusiastically and take notes during the translation. He did an excellent job translating my efforts at humor, but I later learned he tossed in a few lines of his own, which was excellent. I ended about 64 minutes after I started, and then fielded some excellent questions for about 25 more minutes, with very few people in the crowd getting restless. I was very pleased with the event, and afterwards received many polite and sincere comments from students and faculty. Sima and Obrad seemed very pleased, and Radmila reported that I did very well, although I want to ask her later about the translation.
AUDIENCE AFTER THE PERSUASION LECTURE
After the event was over I got to greet my friends from last summer, and many said they would return tomorrow for my argumentation lecture. Obrad and I dropped into the Faculty Club for some juice, and he began showing me some of the Roman coins from his selection. I was surprised when he offered me two coins (in excellent shape) from the third and fourth centuries, saying only that I could send him some rhetoric textbooks later in exchange. I will be giving them to my father as a gift, as he is an avid coin collector. We went back to my quarters and had an excellent discussion about ancient history (he being the expert), including Atilla the Hun, the Punic Wars, Timur the Lame, Hannibal's battle tactics, and the way Serbian ad American students view history. While speaking the phone rang, and it was Vedran Vucic, former director of the Yugoslavian debate program, someone I feel very close to. It all started when Vedran sent that newsletter about their debate program to me in 1994, and he is really responsible for everything that has happened to me in relation to Yugoslavia because without him none of these contacts would have been made. He had a chance to drop by and did so. Obrad excused himself, and I waited in front of the Faculty of Law at the time Vedran had mentioned.
OBRAD, VOJA, THE AUTHOR, AND SIMA
We talked about our lives and activities (Vedran is now selling electronic musical instruments and software packages ... he owns a Theramin ... and is working with youth drama groups as well as documenting female suicides as a response to the Balkan war), but we soon began talking about his real love ... the youth debate program. We spoke about how to expand it, how to make it less dependent on the Soros Foundation and how to create better local community partnerships. He realizes that if debate is to succeed here, it must be rooted in and owned by communities. I sipped orange juice, but I was glad to get him to drink some of my welcome bottle of Johnny Walker Red, since I do not do scotch. I loaned him about a dozen experimental music CDs I brought from the USA, and he left around midnight to catch the last bus to his apartment on the other side of the river.
Having made it through my first full work day here, I felt good, typed my diary, and tried to go to sleep. It wasn't easy, as my internal clock is disoriented, but I was able to fall asleep reading Barbara Tannin's new book, The Argument Culture (thanks to Skip Eno for turning me onto it). Nothing against Tannin, of course, although I did see a number of juicy critique cards in there. As I fell asleep I realized that I had completely skipped dinner, and had not missed it because of the size of the lunch. So ended Tuesday.
As I sit here typing at the end of this day I am having a hard time remembering all of the things that have taken place. As I fell asleep late last night, I awoke fairly late this morning, at about 9:30 AM. When I tried to take a shower I found no hot water, and not really wanting a cold shower in the morning I decided to do without. I made my last cup of coffee from the instant in my room, and awaited the arrival of Voja Stanimirovic, Assistant of Comparative Legal History. I asked about the hot water, and found out that I had switched off the hot water heater by mistake ("Gee, I wonder what this switch does, I guess I'll leave it off," dumb American).
ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL IN BELGRADE
We had planned a visit to a museum and some CD shopping, but I begged off of the museum trip because I needed to do some polishing on my lecture for this evening. We did, however, take a wonderful walk through Belgrade and stopped for coffee and some excellent tiramisu. I snapped some photos of various sights, including the city hall, which had its red star removed when the annulled elections were reinstated and the opposition party took control of Belgrade city government, as the demonstrations of 1996-97 forced the government to recognize the elections. The Faculty of Law seems very proud that one of their own was brave enough to show that the government had acted illegally in the elections, after all life in the city stopped for months as the youthful demonstrators captured the imagination of the entire nation in a show of people power never seen before.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY & STUDENT CULTURAL CENTER IN BELGRADE
Our next stop was a strip of street stalls dedicated to selling CDs. The vast majority of them, I am told, are bootleg CDs made in Bulgaria, which had to be the case since they were between $3-$4 US, about 40 dinars. I couldn't help myself once I saw the titles, and purchased a dozen of them, including traditional Serbian music AND a CD by Yugoslavia's only reggae band, which everyone told me was quite good. Of course, I haven't had time to listen to it yet. We returned to the Faculty of Law at about 12:30 PM. I really am impressed at how a city of this size is so easy to get around in, but then in a Medieval city like this there is a limited central city area where most of the major sites are located.
SMILES COME FREE OF CHARGE AT THE CD STAND
LOTS OF INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATIONS
Voja returned at 1:30 PM, and we joined Sima Avramovic for a luncheon at his home on the other side of the Sava River. It is located in a neighborhood usually reserved for embassies and high government officials, but Sima has been able to legally fight government attempts to take his land, proving that no matter where you are it often helps to have a strong knowledge of the law. He is building a large house there, mostly because zoning laws require only large houses in this neighborhood. We never went inside, but that was fine with me, as I enjoyed being outside on a lovely day.
Sima built a hardwood fire, and began to cook various choice meats he had acquired for the occasion. While the cooking began, we enjoyed the fresh homemade cheese I have become so fond of here, as well as fresh bread, an unusual butter spread called kaymak (which I have learned to love, even though I dislike normal butter and almost never eat it), fresh green onions, fresh light green peppers (also delicious) along with some homemade brandy (called schliebovitze, pardon my spelling), and engaged in some excellent talk about higher education in our different countries, evaluating each as we went along. I very much like the system of appointing assistants here, and they were very much in favor of evaluating faculty on the basis of student evaluations, which has been strongly opposed by some of their colleagues. When the meats were done we began to eat in earnest, switching from brandy to the excellent beer made here (very inexpensive, and it only comes in large bottles). Once again, there was more food than I could eat, but that seems common here. Food is plentiful, fresh, and delicious, though a bit heavy on the meat. During the meal we were joined by Sima's cousin who is a student of physical education who was a bit down because he had failed his examination that day in native dances of Serbia. We cheered him up, and then left in order to arrive in time for my lecture at the Faculty of Law.
LUNCH WITH SIMA AND VOJA
We arrived back at the campus in time for me to clean up and change before my lecture. When I arrived at the Forum Romanum room I found that it was packed once again, even though the title of my lecture was "Truth vs. Acceptance in Argumentation," a contrast between the concept of truth enunciated by Aristotle, Toulmin, and Perelman. The students said that I had been very easy to understand the day before, so it was decided to dispense with the translation so that I could elaborate my points a bit more. After 60 minutes I stopped and took questions. I was sure the audience would have been exhausted by my oratory after that, but they asked questions for another hour and fifteen minutes, and they were very thoughtful and interesting questions not just the "explain this again" variety, but complex questions which showed they had understood and critically processed my message. Make no mistake, the young people of Yugoslavia are VERY smart and learn very quickly. They are a true joy to teach and learn from. I was, of course, very worried about the substance of this lecture, and especially how it would be received by a great scholar like Obrad Stanojevic, who has read Aristotle in the original Greek and who, I learned, has read Perelman in Serbian translation. I was relieved afterwards to hear that he had told Sima how pleased he was about my lecture, which also pleased me greatly. These two men have taken a real chance on me, as sanctions are about to be imposed on Serbia at US insistence, and I wanted to repay them by doing the best job I could. I am so pleased that I have been able to meet their expectations.
After the lecture Obrad, Sima, Voja, and I were joined in my quarters by Marina Nenezic, one of their outstanding graduates now working for Telefonija, a telecommunications firm. She had been a first prize winner in a prestigious English language oratory prize held in Brussels. I managed to get them to work on that bottle of Johnny Walker Red I would never touch, although Voja and Marina stuck to mineral water. I presented Obrad with a speech communication textbook he had asked for, and Voja was able to identify one of the Roman coins Obrad had given me as coming from the reign of Constantine, dating it to the third century CE. We had a jolly conversation and then people began to leave. Sima asked me if I would like to go to an Aikido demonstration, which seemed very strange to me, but I agreed, having learned to trust him. Radmila called to confirm our plans to meet at the Soros Foundation office tomorrow to talk to the Foundation director, Sonja Licht.
Sima drove me to a neighborhood not far away, and we entered a handsome building on a side street with a sign in front announcing it as the "World Centre of Real Aikido." It turns out "Real" Aikido is an adaptation of that ancient art to make it fit naturally into real life and everyday experience, for mental and physical development as well as for self defense. I was interested to learn that one of its guidelines is never to do great harm, even to an attacker, but to just stop the attack and render the attacker available for more logical forms of persuasion. I met the inventor of this style, Ljubomir Vracarevic, an impressive physical specimen who carries himself with great grace and power. The walls were adorned with tributes and testimonials, since he has trained Russian army special forces as well as security services in many countries. He and his wife trained the bodyguards of Libya's Khaddafi (his wife trained Khaddafi's female bodyguards). He has created 180 clubs in 23 nations, has trained over 120,000 pupils and has produced 105 masters of the technique. We talked briefly and he had his dozen or so pupils currently working give me a demonstration of their techniques, the most impressive being one man fending off four attackers in what was obviously not a practiced or stylized performance, but a spontaneous response to the situation as each senior student tried their best to throw down their master teacher as Ljuba looked on, but all failed and ended up in heaps on the floor over and over again. Impressed? That was only the beginning.
We went upstairs from the training spaces, and I found myself in a very quiet and harmonious oriental decorated room with huge aquariums and soft benches, along with an indoor fountain and gorgeous Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian prints given to Ljuba by ambassadors from these nations he had worked in. He invited us to make ourselves comfortable and served us some fruit juice. He explained that he used this large upper space as a place for parents and friends to relax and meditate while they waited for their students or friends working downstairs. As Ljuba went to change out of his combat garb, we were joined by his daughter, also a Real Aikido master who is also a student at the Faculty of Law with a 95% average in a very difficult field of study. She explained the style a bit more, and also spoke of her travels all over the world, most recently in Guinea (West Africa) where she led demonstrations and training sessions by herself for the first time. She was a very impressive young woman. Soon Ljuba and his wife joined us, and we spoke about his work as well as the future of Yugoslavia, a constant topic here. More juice and hot breads were served, and I noticed that the space was beginning to fill up. Soon it became apparent that it was Ljuba's birthday and his many friends were joining him for a celebration in this private/public space. Soon musicians appeared who began playing songs and the crowd began to sing along ... songs of Macedonia, Romany songs, Serbian songs, Muslim songs, and even a few Communist Party songs (with the words changed to mock the Party). New trays of delicious foods appeared. The party accelerated and I was asked to join a jolly group of just arrived partyers which I did with glee, and they welcomed me with open arms and soon they were taking pictures of us together and teaching me the words to their songs, with Sima translating as we went along. After midnight Sima needed to go home to his family and my biological clock was telling me it was tired, so we prepared to leave. Ljuba and I had a short meeting where he told me how much he had enjoyed my conversation and company, he asked me to sign his guest book, and autographed a copy of his book for me, adding to his signature "Bravo for the Central Route," Sima obviously had told him about my ELM lecture from the day before. His wife and daughter escorted me to the door, and his daughter told me she was seeking a book in English on articulation and asked if I could suggest one. I told her I would find one and send it on to her. Kisses on the cheek from all, and Sima and I were off into the night. We arrived back at the Faculty of Law at about 1 AM, and I have been typing for an hour now, long enough to prepare me for a sound sleep.
What do bootleg CDs, Roman coins, fresh green peppers, homemade brandy, Aristotle, Toulmin, Perelman, Aikido, hot cheese breads, and a mountain of a man named Ljuba have in common? Why, May 6th, 1998 in Belgrade, of course.
I awake ready for a new adventure. Little do I know that this day will be one of my busiest. I make myself a cup of coffee in my room and wait for Sima's arrival. I work on my lecture which I will be giving later in the day.
Sima arrives and we are off to visit a private high school in New Belgrade. It is the first private "classical gymnasium" in Yugoslavia, meaning that it teaches classical languages (Latin, Greek) as well as modern subjects. We drive out of Old Belgrade and cross the Sava River into New Belgrade, which is mostly high rise buildings and apartment complexes in the socialist style. It is in one of these large developments, surrounded by small buildings, that we find Classical High School. Its facilities are beautiful, modern and very well kept. While it is private, meaning that the families contribute to the school, it is open to students of all income levels, and it is also highly competitive in that many more students apply for admission then can be accepted. We meet with the director of the school, as well as Tatiana Radenkovic who is my contact there.
CLASSICAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Classical High School is of interest to myself and to Sima because it emphasizes rhetoric in its curriculum, and has had a first public debate on the question of development vs. ecological protection. I visit an English language class of about 10 students at the end of one of their lessons and talk to them about their experiences. A student gives a brief demonstration of a speech she has recently composed in English about driving lessons, and it is quite interesting. I talk to the students, who mention their strict dress code (men wear ties, etc.) and I mention the increased use of school uniforms in American schools, which they find even more strict than their code. I encourage them to attend the public debate this evening at the Faculty of Law. I meet with another class and have much the same experience. The students seem very articulate and interesting. I especially like one student named Marcia who questions me very closely. I also have a chance to meet with one of the teachers, who Sima indicates was his chemistry teacher when he was a boy. Our time is limited, so we must be on our way.
CLASSICAL HIGH SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION
We drive back in to Belgrade and head for the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation) for a meeting with Radmila Maslovaric and Sonja Licht its Director. This is a new facility, different (and quite a bit better, it seems) than during my previous visit. I meet with Radmila and we discuss my visit, the debate program at the Belgrade Faculty of Law, and the high school program, which is her major debate focus. Radmila also directs other Soros programs in Yugoslavia, such as he English language program, but she seems to have always been very attached to debating since she took over the program after Vedran's retirement from it. It is Radmila and OSI which have purchased my plane ticket and the Faculty of Law have been my hosts on the ground. Her hope is that my visit will help to spark the debate program at the University. We spend quite a bit of time discussing the upcoming creation of a non governmental organization to take over the administration of the program, and she asks for my advice on structural issues and invites me to attend their organizational session this coming Saturday.
AUTHOR & RADMILA MASLOVARIC
We go downstairs to meet with Sonja. I remember her well from my previous visit, when I was extremely impressed with her command of the international situation as well as her visionary hopes for Yugoslavia. We speak about the differences between the use of volunteers vs. paid personnel in social change and action programs, the Soros debate efforts in other East European nations, and her hopes for the debate program in Yugoslavia. She asks about debate in America and I begin to tell her about the Urban Debate League effort being promoted by OSI-USA. She is very interested in this, and seems anxious to find ways for the UDL students and the Yugoslavian students to network and learn from each other. I promise to keep her informed. Our conversation lasts longer than scheduled, and we bow out as she is very busy, OSI-Yugoslavia being an extremely large and busy operation, and I appreciate her willingness to meet with me again. Once more, I am impressed by her during this meeting. I hope that I can learn from her visionary spirit and her willingness to stand up to those who question that spirit.
Radmila and I set off for lunch at an outdoor cafe she knows of. Our conversation is less about business and more about our two countries, but I find it to be extremely enjoyable. The food is excellent, of course, and I enjoy some excellent mousaka. The time flies as we talk, and soon it is time to leave as I have an appointment with journalists back at the Faculty of Law. We walk back as it is a beautiful day in Belgrade. I am pleased that I am beginning to learn my way around, and I actually suggest a quicker route back.
I meet with two journalists in my quarters at the Faculty of Law, along with Obrad and Sima. Obrad translates the questions and my answers. He seems to focus on the reporter from the weekly newsmagazine "Politico" (I could be incorrect on the precise spelling) who is also a former student of his. Questions concern the format of debating in America, my impressions of Yugoslavia and the students I have worked with, and the way in which Yugoslavia is covered by the media in the USA. The interview might have gone on longer, but it is almost time for the public debate the students at the Faculty of Law have been working on.
MISHKO INTRODUCES THE DEBATE
AUTHOR SAYS A FEW WORDS BEFORE THE DEBATE
The debate is held in the major amphitheater of the Faculty of Law, a handsome room with beautiful wooden seats and tables. I give the teams a little USA-style pep talk before the debate. I am asked to serve as one of the judges, although the audience will also be judging. Mishko gives a few introductory remarks and then asks me to say a few words before the debate, which I do, and I actually succeed in keeping them to a "few" words. The audience seems quite large (well over 100) for a debate which has been publicized only within the school and which is taking place at the dinner hour. I see faces from my lectures and also a number of students from Classical High School.
The debate is in the traditional parliamentary format, with two persons on each team, the affirmative being the government and the negative being the opposition. The topic is: resolved, that political correctness is a justified form of censorship in public communication.
GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION TEAMS
The government's case involves:
* Careful definition of terms, focusing on speech which degrades specific groups of people;
* A specific plan involving the creation of a code for the media to follow, governed by a group containing appointees by the government, appointees by the opposition, and from the national journalists organization.
* The argument that such a code can protect the dignity of individuals, can stop stigmatization of marginalized groups, and that improving the content of media discussions can increase tolerance in the overall society.
The opposition refutes these arguments (although agreeing with definitions), embraces the goals of political correctness even though they reject the method proposed by the government, and establishes three counter-arguments:
* That government regulation of words used in the media will not change the attitudes people have, and that is what is really important.
* The committee created by the plan will be inadequate to the task and will be abused by the government and special interests, who will establish new forms of bias which serve their purposes.
* The PC code will not change speech in everyday life, which is where most of the abuses and victims can be found.
THE GOVERNMENT TEAM
The English skills of the students are very impressive. This is the first public debate in English for 3 of the 4 students. I am also impressed by the direct clash which takes place and the organizational abilities of the students (all seem to be taking flowsheets in the American style ... not really my doing). Only once or twice are students unable to locate the proper English words for their ideas. The students do show their need to become more familiar with the "points of information" process, but that will come with time, and when questions were taken they were well answered. The last two speeches are very strong, and contain a high degree of dynamism and commitment, which shows a great deal of composure in students so young. All of the students are first year in the Faculty of Law.
THE OPPOSITION TEAM
There is a "smoke break" (so needed in this smoking country) at the end of the debate, and the crowd leaves through two separate doors to indicate which side in the debate they agree with, and it seems rather evenly split. Outside there is a heavy buzz of conversation about the debate as well as a lot of congratulations to the debaters.
PART OF THE AUDIENCE
Everyone is called back into the room. The judges have made their decision (in a very close debate) and it is 2-1 for the opposition (I voted for the government, something about there being no disadvantage and a slight advantage ... you've heard that before), and there is applause for the debaters. I am asked to say a few words to evaluate the debate and I congratulate all of the participants but I also discuss how point of information procedures might have been handled better. Once again, I keep my comments quite brief and do not discuss my specific decision. All of the members of the debate club gather on the dais for a group photo. The expressions on their faces speak for themselves.
THE BELGRADE FACULTY OF LAW DEBATE TEAM
There is no time to dwell in the moment, as I must leave immediately for a speaking engagement at the Belgrade Open Debate Club, and Emil accompanies me there. I arrive a few moments early, and get to meet with Tijana, Vladislava, and Marko, all colleagues from last summer's visit.
BELGRADE OPEN CLUB DEBATE OFFICE
I meet with about 20 debaters and deliver a 70 minute talk about eleven standard tactics for building a negative case against the resolution. This is the talk that the coaches said their students needed the most. I try and make it very interactive, and I even succeed! The students seem very attentive. Radmila is in the audience and takes notes on my talk, even though she is neither a coach nor a debater, a strong indication of her genuine interest in debating. As my talk ends I must leave immediately or my next engagement.
LECTURE AT THE BELGRADE OPEN DEBATE CLUB
I go with Emil and Sonja and other students to a part of town called Skardalia, which is a center for cafes, taverns, and restaurants, popular with authors, artists, and students. At a quaint restaurant filled with original oil paintings we meet with the students from the PC debate, as well as with Obrad, Sima, and Mishko. The food is excellent and the spirit is high. I am told that the audience response to the debate was most excellent, and that the Dean of Students was very impressed. Toasts are made and stories are swapped. Before long the discussion turns, as it inevitably does in any group of debaters, to politics. The discussion involves what these students would be willing to fight and die for. They all agreed about the need to oppose the Nazi occupation, for example, but there was wide disagreement about the conduct of the Bosnia conflict and deep suspicion about any military activity in Kosovo, through any generalization on my part would be fraught with inaccuracies given the language barriers. Musicians appear and the songs begin. I love it when happy people sing together, and people in this country love to do that. A wide variety of songs are sung from all portions of the Balkans, reflecting Serbian, Albanian, Croat, Romany, and Muslim traditions, and everyone seems to know the words to the songs. I tip the musicians and the wait staff moderately, but it is apparently generous for this country. One of the students gives me a ride back to my quarters in a 24-year-old tiny Zastava, a car I have seen all over this country but haven't had a chance to ride in yet. I share with him my experience as a young man with an old VW bug, and we both give thanks for cars which you can push start, it necessary, by yourself. I return to my quarters filled with the adventures and events of the day, ad it takes me a long while to fall asleep even while reading the most boring article from the latest issue of PARABOLA magazine (the journal of myth and tradition).
I arise later than I should because I had such a difficult time falling asleep, and now I have only about 30 minutes to prepare to meet Obrad and Sima for our journey to Novi Sad. As usual, I am convinced that I am forgetting something (as it turns out, my handwritten log of 5/7/98) but as usual I cannot remember what it is. Obrad and Sima arrive at precisely the same moment, one knocking on the door and one knocking on the window. We join forces and are on our way to Novi Sad.
The drive to Novi Sad is in Obrad's Skoda (a fine car from the Czech Republic) and is quite beautiful, the countryside being very flat and extremely fertile. Obrad explains that even during the worst of the sanctions this allowed Serbia to eat well. The drive takes about an hour, and as usual the conversation is excellent, as we discuss issues such as faculty evaluation and discipline procedures comparing them between our countries, my courses, computers and software, and the history of the region. They also explain to me more about the conference we will be attending at the University of Novi Sad, a meeting of legal history scholars from all over the former Yugoslavia. They both seem pleased that this event will be attended by colleagues from Macedonia, Republica Srpska (Banja Luka), as well as from Kosovo, Montenegro, and, of course, Serbia itself.
HIGHRISE VIEW OF NOVI SAD
We arrive in Novi Sad and I immediately notice that the city looks a bit different from other cities I have been in, and they explain that is because it was controlled for quite a while by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so that the city has a certain Austrian architectural and organizational style. Like many cities here, this is a older section dating back many centuries as well as a newer section dating from the 50 years of communist rule under Tito. The University of Novi Sad was founded in 1959, so it is in the new section, and is laid out more in a way which would be familiar to Americans. While in Belgrade the various Faculties (colleges in our terminology) are spread throughout the city, in Novi Sad every part of the University (except for the Faculty of Medicine) is located together on a unified campus. The buildings are all modern, quite lovely, and well maintained.
UNIVERSITY OF NOVI SAD CAMPUS
We are the last to arrive (but not very late) and after a few introductory remarks of welcome, we separate into two groups: one for those involved in Roman law and one for those involved in comparative legal history. I decided to go with Sima to the comparative legal history session. As I was going I noticed the gender balance of the group, with 11 male and 9 female professors attending. I also later discovered that some of the most distinguished and respected members were women, something one might not find in an American legal setting.
Law Conference in Novi Sad
While the discussion was all in Serbian, Sima did some simple translating for me and I tried to follow the discussion given this guidance but also using non verbal signals as best I could. At the comparative session the issues seemed to be as follows:
1. Pressure to remove legal history from its important place in the law curriculum seems to have declined, so that this area of study seemed more secure.
2. Students seem more interested in "positive law" than legal history, so it is becoming difficult to find excellent assistants to move up the academic ladder towards full professor in this area. The colleague from Kosovo particularly thought this was a problem and asked for help in locating talented students to hire on as assistants. The eldest and most respected professor indicated that when this had become a problem in 1905 grants were offered to talented young students to study legal history abroad and then return, and if they did not return they must return the funds they used. This, plus recruiting and holding conferences, had dealt with this problem then and should be reconsidered now.
3. There is interest in expanding study of larger legal systems through history, such as Anglo-Saxon, Islamic, etc.
4. The most spirited discussion seemed to surround how "national legal history" would be taught and titled. One member indicated that the correct title given the new national reality would be "Serbian legal history," while others suggested keeping the current title, or using the title adopted in Novi Sad, which is "legal history of Yugoslav nations." This was really an interesting discussion, because it served as a case study of a broader problem here, since the nation has split, changed, and been reconfigured much of the national consciousness must also be reconfigured as a result.
5. Sima discussed innovations in the Belgrade program, especially the study of rhetoric and the introduction of debate as a student activity. I spoke briefly about my visit and the debate I witnessed the evening before, and everyone seemed very interested. The elder professor noted that this was not new, but that debating had been introduced at the Belgrade Faculty of Law in 1928, but had been discontinued during the war. She was pleased that it had been introduced by her former student, Sima.
I was impressed by the high level of respect that all attending seemed to have for Obrad and Sima, listening very closely whenever they spoke and often deferring to them out of respect and admiration. I realized I had been very lucky to have had the opportunity to network with these excellent scholars.
We returned to the main session where the Romanists were concluding. The professor from Banja Luka [Dr. Nikola Mojovic] spoke about the situation there with Serbian and Croatian students, and how students had been allowed to use manuals in both languages and that it had seemed to work well, although there still were problems between students of different nationalities.
Refreshments began arriving, featuring a wide variety of fresh local foods, accompanied by juice, mineral water, wine, brandy, and Johnny Walker Red. I really enjoyed the food and conversation, and after 30 minutes or so we began preparing for our walking tour. On the schedule was a walk around the campus, a tour of the Novi Sad Archives, a visit to the library, and then a late lunch at a rooftop restaurant atop one of the tallest buildings in Novi Sad.
PARK IN NOVI SAD
Our walk took us through the park and on to the Archives. The Archives house the Vojvodina (name of this region) legal records dating back to the 1500's. It was a prison for most of its existence, but has been rebuilt as a legal archive.
NOVI SAD LEGAL ARCHIVE
The first floor contained many excellent paintings and I photographed a number of them. We toured the stacks (about 12 kilometers of shelves) and we looked at some rare documents, including imperial documents from the reign of Charles VI and Marie Theresa, one of which I was able to hold. We stopped in a conference room for a rest, some talk, and the standard refreshments, including that home made brandy. I suggest it in moderation. I can toss off a shot of it, but I am unable to sip it and savor each small bit as they do here. I met an intelligent young archivist named Nada and we talked about the archive and life here in Novi Sad. Like so many times on this trip, just as things were really getting interesting it was time to go.
REFRESHMENTS, NADA, AND DOCUMENTS AT NOVI SAD LEGAL ARCHIVE
We walked through the public market stalls and I marveled at the beautiful fresh foods, and then we found ourselves in the center of the old city, full of old churches and monuments, where I took a number of photos. I really enjoyed speaking with Prof. Sharkich from Novi Sad who told me about the history of the city. We straggled behind a bit, and ended up passing by the library tour and going straight to our main meal.
PAINTINGS IN THE NOVI SAD LEGAL ARCHIVE
The meal itself was on the top floor of the highest building in the area, and afforded us an excellent view. The conversation and fellowship with so many excellent legal minds was most enjoyable. I especially enjoyed meeting and sharing with Prof. Mojovic and Prof. Buchkovski of the University of St. Cyril & Methodius in Skopje, Macedonia. I remember St. Cyril, because he modified the Greek alphabet to create the Cyrillic alphabet for slovenic words. I look forward to future cooperation with them. Obrad was called on to speak, and he announced that next year's meeting would be at Prishtina in Kosovo, a sense of confidence that the Kosovo situation will be better a year from now. Everyone I met in Yugoslavia seemed to share that hope. I gave a short thank you talk, and then we were on our way.
We called my friends Tomislav and Mira and got directions, and Obrad dropped me off there. I was met by my dear colleague Djordje (who attended the World Debate Institute in Vermont in 1996) as well as two of my favorite students I had worked with last summer in Yugoslavia, Dunja (1995 Eastern European debate champion) and Emilija (Yugoslavian National Team in 1997). We went up to the apartment where I was to stay and talked.
DUNJA & EMILIJA
Shortly before 8 PM we called a taxi and headed out for a visit to the Belgrade Open Club, a Soros Youth program which also houses the debate team, which was meeting that night. It seemed like a very nice facility for youth activities, and when we arrived the students began to arrive for the evening session.
Novi Sad Open Club Debate Meeting 5-8-98
Svetlana and Violeta were putting on a public speaking workshop (part 2) about difficult situations and audiences. After speaking in general about being aware of the audience, taking their attitude into account, and how to cope with problems (hostile questions, whispering, bored people, etc.) an exercise was outlined.
SVETLANA ZEJAK TEACHING AT NOVI SAD OPEN CLUB
Three speakers were selected (a very experienced student, a moderately experienced student, and a relatively new student) and one by one they gave a speech of their own design while members of the audience tried to distract them. Then after each speech there was a discussion about how the speaker reacted and the speaker had to recall what kind of distracting behavior each audience member was engaged in (teaching them to focus on he audience WHILE still speaking, not just ignoring them). The students seemed to have a lot of fun and after that exercise NO audience would seem nearly as bad.
VLADIMIR, DUBROFKA, DJORDJE
After the meeting many of us went to a nearby coffee house (OK, they served other kinds of beverages as well) for a talk. I was pleased that one of the instructors, Dubrofka, whom I had met last summer accompanied us, even though her son was at home having a birthday party. She does fascinating research, using discourse analysis to examine news broadcasts, especially state radio, to discover bias and/or objectivity. I was pleased to find out that she has a new book coming out, and she promised me a copy. I felt bad because I had promised to put her in contact with American colleagues doing the same research but had failed to follow through on my pledge. She forgave me, and hopefully my public shame will cause me to do better in the next coming year. I have found out that academic ties with the United States are quite difficult, and that many of my colleagues in Yugoslavia are anxious to cooperate on very specific projects, yet the barriers remain.
AUTHOR & DUBROFKA
After an hour or so we left and went to a Chinese restaurant (that's right, in Novi Sad) which was still open after 11 PM. That was quite an experience. The hot and sour soup was quite good, but the noodle dish I ordered came with egg noodles not rice noodles, but it still tasted very good. As you may know, I am a huge fan of Chinese food, so going without for a week is difficult, so I loved it.
TOMISLAV & MIRA, DEBATE MANIACS
We returned to the lovely two bedroom flat where I was staying at about 1:30 AM, and Tomislav, Mira, and Djordje and I had more good talk before we finally surrendered to the need for sleep. I had no problem falling asleep on this night, but that might have been because it was after 2:30 AM by the time my head hit the pillow.
I think Novi Sad is now my favorite Yugoslavian city. It is historic, beautiful, has lovely parks and green spaces, and is friendly, yet less chaotic than Belgrade and less a victim of air pollution. Tomorrow, I promise myself that I will run the water of the Danube River through my fingers.
I awake late, but rested. Toma, Mira, and Djordje are all here. We begin the day with some delicious coffee (I take mine at 1/2 strength in comparison to Tomislav) and some fresh pastries. We lounge about and talk about DEBATE. Of all my colleagues in Yugoslavia, these three are the most committed to the activity I love so much. I know this will seem strange to my American colleagues, but these three just love to "cut cards" (the USA debate term for doing research and finding quotations useful for using in a debate) even though they do not have a set topic. Mira is especially rabid about this process, and Toma always jokes that she cuts the best cards in Eastern Europe. I can't wait for her to see the research madness at the World Debate Institute. We discuss their efforts at organizing a University debate program here as well as the nature of the program at the Novi Sad Open Club I visited yesterday.
The flat where I am staying has a REAL BATHTUB, and I take a long and relaxing bath. Even before I am done I can smell something iteresting cooking. Tomislav is preparing his famous Hungarian/Cajun chowder, a unification of his national cuisine and his favorite American cuisine ... and the result is sure to be quite spicey! I type my diary for a while as we talk and the cooking continues. Tomislav questions me about another highly spiced American dish -- chili! I give him my recipe, and he shows off the cumin seed he has managed to find, not easy in Yugoslavia.
The meal is delicious, including salad, Tomislav's chowder, delicious home made bread, and what are called "pancakes." I had sampled a version of these pancakes the day before for desert, and these were every bit as good if not better! They are what we in America would call "blintzes," filled with a sweet cheese and raisans, and then covered with a cream sauce and baked. They have been made by Tomislav's mother. Wow! What a great meal. The resturants have been very good here, but as usual the special meal prepared in a private home is the best.
AT THE DANUBE
Dunja arrives and samples some of the pancakes, which she has never had before, and she loves them. We decide to walk down to the Danube River to fulfill my dream of actually touching the waters. Mira even finds a small bottle to capture some of the water. It is a very short walk of about 15 minutes, and we find a number of families camping out near the river, several small boats enjoying the water, and even a group of people getting ready to launch an ultra-light airplane. It looks good, but I am concerned about the sound of the engine, but we are on our way before it takes flight.
Back at the flat we pack and prepare to leave for Belgrade. We catch a taxi to the bus station, where we meet Svetlana (also on her way to Belgrade) and I also get a chance to see Doctor Mischa, who I met last summer at the Jabuka debate camp. But, there isn't much time to chat as the bus is ready to leave and we need to crowd on board. There are no seats, so we have to stand, but that is not really a big problem since it is just a little over an hour from Novi Sad to Belgrade.
In Belgrade, Mira and Svetlana went to the Hotel Excelsior to check into their rooms, while Toma and I went to to my quarters at the Faculty of Law. Once there we talked briefly and I managed to talk Toma into working, again, on my bottle of Johnny Walker (which was finally beginning to vanish). It was time for us to go, and we were off on foot to the Belgrade Open Club for what we knew would be a very important meeting.
FOUNDING THE ACCD
The meeting we were to attend was the organizational and founding meeting of the new non-governmental organization which would run the educational debating program in Yugoslavia -- the Association for Creative Communication and Debate. This is a very impotant meeting, as the time has come for the sponsoring organization of most debate activities, the Soros Foundation Yugoslavia, to hand the program over to those who have been carrying it out -- the coaches, teachers, and supporters who have been working in it. This organizational step, it is hoped, will have several advantages: it will reduce both official and public suspicions about the Soros Foundation, it will make it easier to raise funds locally and internationally, and it will give those directly involved a stronger feeling of ownership.
PLOTTING A COUNTERPROPOSAL
The meeting is attended by represetatives from the many clubs throughout the country. It is good to see Vedran Vucic there. Vedran had founded the program, but had withdrawn when his health had declined. Now with his health restored, he is back, the father of debating in Yugoslavia watching the birth of a new entity. I notice that of the 18 founding members, 12 are women and 6 are men. The joy of the situation is tempered, however, by news that the colleague from Kosovo cannot attend because the shooting has blocked lines of transportation. No one needs to say how this event proves the importance of this work -- the need to teach young people the skills of critical thinking and communication which can lead to a different and more peaceful mode of conflict resolution.
The meeting is, of course, not conducted in English, but Toma provides some general tranalation of the events. After a brief statement of intent the articles of establishment are reviewed. It is a bit different than our meetings, as many people often speak at once from time to time, but no one seems to be shouted down and everyone seems to be heard. Most of the discussion is clarification of the draft document which many people have been working on. Some of the issues involve a quorum, copyright for instructional materials, removal of people from the board, and other issues. At the conclusion of a discussion of well over two hours the changed and clarified document was ratified unanimously. The election of officers followed. I was pleased to be asked to serve a three year term on the international advisory board, along with another American and a Dutch scholar, neither of whom could attend.
TIJANA MANDICH, THE NEW PRESIDENT
Then came the signing of the articles of establishment, complete with the registering of each signee according to their state identification cards, which are themselves rather disturbing looking documents to an American -- passports for use within your own country. As the signing continues a feeling of excitement rises and cognac appears. A toast is proposed to the young people of Yugoslavia, and excited conversations break out all over the room. There is an expectant feeling of the future as the plans, hopes, and dreams of this organization. Usually, a meeting like this would end quickly and people would move off for coffee, beer, brandy, or other refreshments, but this time it is very difficult for people to move out as the conversations are serious and resist being broken up.
THE FOUNDING DOCUMENT IS SIGNED
FOUNDERS OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR CREATIVE COMMUNICATION AND DEBATE, 5-9-98
Finally, Djordje is able to break the logjam and move people towards the tow center and an outdoor cafe. There, every spare chair is comandeered and moved around two small tables, initial beverage orders are made, and we are joined by others, specifically Layla and Tamara, two outstanding debaters from the high school program now active at the university level. I am told that they were involved, with Djordje, in a practice debate that day. Slowly but surely, debate is spreading. Djordje has already started clubs at the Faculty of Philosophy and two others for a total of four debate groups in Belgrade universities as well as one open debate club for high school students.
The coach from Montenegro asks me about a specific history professor from America he is seeking. Prof. John Treadway of the University of Richmond has written an excellent book on the history of Montenegro which he would like to translate. I note that a former student of mine, Lisa Heller, is now at Richmond and that I will attempt to link with Prof. Treadway to put him in contact. It is this sort of basic linkage which is so easy yet so important.
RADMILA MASLOVARIC, VEDRAN VUCIC, AND TOMISLAV KARGACIN
I enter into a conversation with Marko, a highly educated philologist who is now the Executive Secretary of the ACCD. In what may well be the deepest moment of the trip, Marko recounts the responsibility he feels towards his country and the young people in it. He is prepared to fail, but he is not willing to stand by and just give up. He comments that even if there is no god to judge, he will always have to judge himself, and he recounts a Kafka story which explains that the door which leads to a lawful world is a personalized door for each of us. He hopes that as he sits, old and frail in a retirement home, he will look at the television screen and see a former debater, someone ike Tamara, speaking with skill, compassion, and logic, leading the nation in a positive direction, and at that point he will remember his colleagues and he will remember me, and all of us who have worked in this effort. As the new President Tijana Mandic, who holds a doctorate and is a psychotherapist, explains, so many of her friends and associates think that she is naive in working to teach young people the way of communication and reasoning, but she sees in the students that progress is taking place and as they multiply and spread the techniques year after year, there can be hope for increased peace and community. Many of you know that I often say many of the same things about our country, our world, and our debaters. Of course, I love to hear others say much the same thing, but it seems to have a special meaning here, where war and violence are very near, where hatred and suspicion of those who are "different" is terribly common, yet it is a country of wonderful, intelligent, big hearted, and inspiring people who have embraced debate and logical communication as a way to a better future. It isn't just a job or an interesting activity for them, it is a moral imperative. I repeat one of my common themes, that each of us cannot change the entire world, but that we can change things within the reach of our hands and the sound of our voice, and if more of us would do so, the world would, indeed, begin to change. You try to make a better world for yourself and others each day in the space around you.
TEXTBOOKS DONATED BY AMERICAN COACHES
Now I know why I am so committed to these people and especially the young people here. I have little to offer the highly developed debate cultures of Oxford and Cambridge, for example, but I do have my experience, my limited knowledge, and my very person in the effort that these valiat people have undertaken on his historic day, Saturday, May 9, 1998, the day when Yugoslavian debate training culture came of age because the people themselves took this important step. I have also learned a great deal from them.
SOMEONE KNEW I WAS COMING
At about 1:30 AM Svetlana and I share a taxi back to where we are staying, she to the Excelsior, I to the Faculty of Law. I am very tired, but as I lie in bed my thoughts are spinning and sleep does not come easy. I know now, more than ever, that it isn't at all about the wins, losses, or trophies, but about the future of us all. As the bullets fly and innocents are killed because of who their parents were, it is not possible to sleep easily. The world needs discourse colored with love more than I can know, even at this moment.
I awaken early because I must -- it is time to leave. I am exhausted as I get out of bed, having slept so poorly, my mind so stimulated by dreams and visions which have come from my visit. I begin to pack.
Even though it is early on a Sunday visitors begin to arrive. Tomislav and Mira arrive for a farewell. We talk about our hopes for the future and more specifically their visit to the World Debate Institute this summer, Tomislav's third and Mira's first, and about the fudraising efforts to bring two of their most outstanding students. A last photo and then they must go. Voja is on his way to the bus station for a trip, and he dops in to wish me well and hope for my return soon. Mishko (Miodrag Jovanovic) drops by. I give him a debate text I have brought, and I turn over the more than 30 debate, logic, and communication texts I have brought with me, most of them from Gina Lane, Steve Woods, and their collaeagues at William Jewell College. Sima Avramovic arrives and comments that these books may well be the most important part of my visit, because they will be here teaching and helping long after I am gone. My packing is finished, and I give Mishko a last minute pep talk, telling him I am depending on him to motivate the students in his debate club who put on such a wonderful debate on Thursday. He seems to take it very seriously. Sima has brought me a gift of a premier bottle of schlibozitz (I still don't know how to spell it, it is a very strong plum brandy) as well as a candlestick marked with the crest of the Faculty of Law's Forum Romanum, which sponsors retorical activities. Obrad has also sent along two t-shirts of the Faculty of Law, and I offer four shirts from WDI and also from our debate team, for Obrad to distribute. As we are about to leave Radmila calls and asks to see me as I travel to the airport, and of course I cannot decline. In Sima's car (a Zastava) we stop near Slavia Square for a brief sidewalk meeting with Radmila. She gives me a CD of music peformed by an orchestra of war refugee youth, and in exchange I offer her an "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery" WDI t-shirt and a copy of Freeley's Argumentation and Debate. We embrace as friends, and I am back in Sima's car and on my way to the Belgrad airport. It is a short drive, and soon I am through customs, have checked my luggage, have cleared passport control and I am waiting at the gate.
My flight to Frankfurt is uneventful. I arrive in Frankfurt and catch a Mercedes taxi to my hotel, the Intercontinental. One night here and I will spend more than I have on my entire trip so far. I take a brief nap, take a walk around the city center and have a simple meal of pasta (oh, how I have missed pasta!). I go to bed early in my hotel after watching CNN to catch up on the news I have missed while in Yugoslavia. Holbrooke's mission to Kosovo is not going well and sanctions seem imminent, and as we heard on Saturday, the roads are blocked between Kosovo and Belgrade by shooting on the part of both sides. Holbrooke is right, this is different than Bosnia, and far more complicated. Kosovo is the sight of the great battle between Christians and Turks in 1389, and it has a special meaning to all Serbs and all Albanians. At every party I attended where there was singing on this trip (most of them) the most passionate and emotional singing was to the ancient song, "Kosovo Girl," no matter which ethnic group is singing it. I take a hot bath and vow to awaken early tomorrow to explore the city and take some photos.
I am anxious to return home to those I love, knowing that I have made so many new friends on this journey. I know there will be more.
I awoke early, ate the free breakfast at the hotel, walked around Frankfurt to do some simpe sightseeing (it's a very nice town, and Germany is a very orderly and prosperous place), and then caught a cab to the airport. It's an 8 hour flight this way, and during the flight I have typed the introduction and spell checked most of the text. My task at home will be to build a web page for this diary and for many of the pictures I have taken with a digital camera.
My thoughts turn to the future. Next weekend the Soros Foundation, though the Open Society Institute, is holding a meeting in New York City to evaluate the pilot program in New York City and plan for possible expansion, and I have been asked to chair that meeting (I say shut up and sit down in a nice way) of about 30 of my American colleagues. On Saturday I will have the privlege to tabulate and pair the NY Urban Debate League tournament as well as attending the year end awards banquet on Sunday, with the conference on Monday.
Yes, there is quite a future for debating ... and let that fuure be bright. I never thought it would involve me, but if not me, who? Indeed, why not me? If you think it will not involve you, I invite you to ask the same question.
If not you, who? Indeed, why not you?
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