The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 35 about 10 international guests sat in the center section behind the minister and other senior government officials. The ceremony began with significant religious overtones, with prayers, poems and invocations. After the director general of ABRII opened the program, the minister of agriculture delivered the first address, receiving polite applause for his remarks. Then it was my turn. I was introduced as president of The World Food Prize, without any reference tomy State Department diplo- matic service. My title of ambassador was never used. As I took the stage, I was struck by what an unusual environment I was in. I had no idea howmy presentation would be received. Would there be a hostile, or even volatile, reaction? I began by describing Norman Borlaug as part of Iowa’s rich agricultural legacy, which included a number of historic endeavors to build relationships with former adversaries. I cited several exam- ples: Herbert Hoover taking food to feed the children of the Soviet Union at the end of WorldWar I; the Yamanashi Hog Lift, which took Iowa animals to Japan following a devastating typhoon not long after WorldWar II; and George Washington Carver’s advice to Mahatma Gandhi during India’s struggle to throw off colonial rule. I then came to the critical part of my presentation. With a slide showing a painting of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to an Iowa farm at the height of the ColdWar, in 1959, I described the visit as taking place during “the most dangerous moment in all human history.” American and Soviet nuclear weapons were poised to be launched at each other. The painting showed Khrush- chev and farmowner Roswell Garst at the corn crib, with the Soviet leader lamenting the fact that Russian farmers could not produce similarly robust crops. I explained that this visit led to several decades of bilateral exchanges on agriculture, none of which had anything to do with nuclear weapons, but everything to do with creating the sense on both sides that some degree of mutual understanding and coop- erationmight be possible. These exchanges on agriculture eased tensions and eventually provided an atmosphere in which negotia- tions on reducing the nuclear threat was possible. Without stating it directly, I felt the audience clearly understood the analogy to the current U.S.-Iranian nuclear tension. Next, I recalled being with Dr. Borlaug at the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 2001, listening as 1986 Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel told the audience that he had come to believe that “people who can stand together to sing or cheer or applaud together for the same achievement, can live in peace together.” I stressed that this philosophy underscored Borlaug’s life and the efforts of The World Food Prize, adding that “confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering can bring people together