The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

34 OCTOBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL cans could find common ground. I could also see that this invita- tion seemed to fit with Iowa’s historical agricultural legacy and Borlaug’s own life experiences in building understanding through agricultural exchanges and confronting hunger. But even if my participation in the event in Iran were deemed appropriate—when asked, then-Deputy Secretary of State William Burns posed no objec- tion—it was highly improb- able that security elements at the IranianMinistry of Foreign Affairs would ever approve issuing a visa to a former U.S. ambassador and State Department official. Finally, even if I received a visa, could I possibly get there on time? My daughter was getting married in England on Aug. 24, just two days before the symposiumwas scheduled to take place in Iran. Following the wedding, my wife and I planned to take a honeymoon in Greece that we had delayed for 40 years. Yet I was sure that Normwould have wantedme to go, so I filled out visa forms for my wife andmyself and sent them in, along with my acceptance of the invitation. As expected, more than a month went by with no word on the visa. I was certain it would never come, and so did not even prepare a presentation. But on Aug. 19, just as we were leaving our house for the flight to England, my cell phone rang with a call fromTehran—the visas had been approved. In between pre-wedding festivities in London, I worked furiously onmy remarks and PowerPoint slides withmy staff in Des Moines while trying to buy airline tickets to Tehran using an Iowa-based credit card—itself an interesting experience. We found a flight that landed in Iran at 2 a.m. on Aug. 26, the day I was scheduled to speak. After a very short night, we were driven to the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran campus in Karaj, where I was introduced toMinister of Agriculture Mahmoud Hojjati and Hujjat al-Islam Mr. Hossein Saeidian, the official representative of the Grand Ayatollah, the Supreme Leader of the country, to agricul- tural organizations. They had a lot of questions about my back- ground and didn’t smile much. The Borlaug Legacy So it was with considerable trepidation that I entered the auditorium, wondering whether I hadmade a mistake in coming here. I was taken aback by the size of the crowd. Every one of the 400 seats was filled with Iranian scientists, with students standing in the back and along the sides of the room. A small contingent of I learned that Borlaug was considered a hero in Iran, both for the impact his “miracle wheat” had had in the 1960s and for his advocacy of biotechnology. In Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on March 25, 2014, Ambassador (ret.) Kenneth Quinn unveiled a bronze statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug on the hundredth anniversary of his birth. Seated from left to right, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). COURTESYOFKENNETHQUINN