July 3, 1989

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On this day 23 years ago I was in a small fishing village in the Soviet Republic of Estonia. It was actually an ethnographic park as they called it, a living museum of sorts. I was on the last full day of a three week ceramic artist’s tour of Moscow, Leningrad and the Baltic republics. I was traveling with a group of self funded “citizen diplomats” visiting these cities to exchange ideas and show our art work to gatherings of our Soviet peers. It was during the time that the old USSR was softening and sliding toward its eventual dissolution in 1991. Estonia and the other Baltic republics were at the hight of what has come to be called “The Singing Revolution“. On this morning Jack Troy, Marta Davies, Ulla Riasallu and I had left the group to visit this little village/cultural park.
As we entered the mostly deserted village we were met by a small man who first ran into his house to get a shirt on. His name was Guido and he was the park caretaker. When he learned that we were Americans he became quite excited and went back into his house to retrieve and very old United States flag. The flag was one his family had obtained during WWII and had kept as a reminder of the US troops they had met. He told us that he had been preparing the village flagpole to fly those colors the next day on Independence Day. He explained that for them July 4 is an international day that belongs to all nations that believe in the dream of freedom and liberty. While we watched he raised our colors a day early. The Singing Revolution notwithstanding he was committing an act that could land him in the gulag. It was a moving experience for all of us.
This flag does not belong to America alone and more especially to any one faction of our political spectrum. It belongs to the world as a symbol of the movement started here in 1776 that is still sweeping the globe. It is not American style “democracy” but an idea that people everywhere deserve the right of self determination. It represents the best ideals of our revolution employed to make all peoples free.

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