olli g orth
EXC ANGE One Real Way to Promote ternational Understanding Arthur Collingsworth earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Michigan and a M.A. in International Relations from Georgetown University. He has devoted his whole life to encouraging and supporting international education and understanding. Collingsworth has worked for the United Nations, Youth for Understanding, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and the WK. Kellogg Foundation, amongst other organizations. Most recently he fathered the international Millennium Technology Prize with the Government of Finland. In 2002 the American President appointed him to a four year term on the U.S. National Security Education Board. The President of Finland has awarded him two of their country's highest honors: Commander of the Order of the Lion and Knight First Class of the Order of the White Rose. Collingsworth fell in love with Prague six years ago and since then he divides his time between his homes in the Old Town in Prague and his American home in San Diego, California. What brought you to Prague? I first came here with an English friend in 1979 and I thought that Prague had the potential to be such a beautiful city, but I found it very grim and depressing and quite unfriendly to foreigners. In 1990 I was invited to come back to Prague by the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies in Geneva who asked me to come and talk to a group ofthe heads of European Red Cross organizations which was meeting here in Prague. I came here and I was so pleased with the differences I saw since my last visit and I met some very impressive young Czech people who were volunteers for the Czech Red Cross. I ended up giving them and some other young Czechs I met scholarships to go and study in the United States. I got to know them and their families in the subsequent years and came backto visit Prague several times. A friend and I owned a place in Scotland, but we decided to sell it and were looking for some place in Europe to spend our summers. We thought about Paris first but then we decided to come to Prague instead. This was six years ago and we have been coming back to spend half a year every year since then here in Prague. We are very impressed with so many of the young people we've met and their level of education and curiosity. I have become
Prague Club Magazine Vj2005
. inte ze any projects since moving here, such 2000, the Prague Society for InterCooperation and the American Friends Preservation of Czech Culture. are also involved with the Organization 'can Friends of the Czech Republic? What ole in this project? I am a member of the Board of Advisors of the American Friends of the Czech Republic, an organization that to promote the Czech Republic and Czech culture - the United States. We've done many different jects, such as creating a small park on Massachusetts Avenue in wasnngton, D.C. where we have erected a large statue of President Tomas Masaryk. It raised ancial aid for the Czech Republic at the time of the Prague floods in 2002, has organized conferences and assisted with the visits of the Czech political aders to the United States. We have also provied scholarships for Americans to come and study ilthe Czech Republic and for Czechs to come and study ilthe United States. Where do you get funding for these scholarships? I have my own foundation, but some money also comes from other organizations. Through my foundation I have given scholarships to more than 100 American high school students to come and live with families and study in other countries of their choice. I have also given scholarships to young Czechs and Finns to go and study in the United States. I am planning to do more in the future because I think that student exchange is very important. If young people have an opportunity to go and live in another culture, it greatly broadens their perspective and provides them with an insight into other cultures, which is the very foundation oftheirfuture lives. This is critical not only for Americans who tend to be rather provincial, but also for young Czechs to have e opportunity to see what the culture in America is like by experiencing it themselves. I think the best way to do - is to live with a family and to attend high school because atthat age people are more open-minded and ey get to participate in another culture in a way that would not be possible as tourists. What are some of the organizations that you cooperate with on student exchanges?
For 13 years I as Vice President of Youth for Understanding, which was one of the two largest student exchange programs in the world. We used to exchange about 8,000 high school students each year. I think this is so important for the future of the world and student exchange should be given much more emphasis because it is the one real way to promote international understanding. Czech people are fortunate to be in the European Union now because it is so much easier to go and study in other EU countries. It is a great advantage for all young people in the EU countries. There seems to be a recurring theme in your life to promote cross-cultural education. Is that your life goal? The theme throughout all my life has really been about international education and understanding. All the projects I have been involved with, like my work with the United Nations, foundations and other organizations, are about international understanding - from the time I was young that is what I wanted to devote myselfto and that is what I hope my whole life will be about. You conceived the international Millennium Technology Prize, which was underwritten by the Finnish Government. How did this idea start? I have had a long association with Finland going back to the days when I was a student. I was there visiting some friends in 1999 when Finland was chairing the European Union in the six months leading to 2000. I had seen the Finnish economy go from being a largely agricultural one in the 60s when I first went there to becoming a high-tech driven economy at the turn of this century. It is interesting how a small country of 5.2 million inhabitants has created technology giants like Nokia and many leading firms in such areas as medical instruments, forestry and paper technology. I thought that maybe Finland should do something special for the millennium in connection with technology so I came up with the idea that Finland should create what I called the "Millennium Technology Prize". This is like an extension of the Nobel Prize concept to high technology. It is awarded for the greatest contribution in the world in the field of high technology that improves
the quality of life and promotes sustainable development. I thought that as we approached the millennium we should take time to think about how technology impacts and transforms society. We should ponder how it affects us in our daily lives. I was also concerned about how the rate of change of human progress was not at the same level as technological change and that we needed to reflect upon this challenge. You just returned from Russia. What was the purpose of the trip? Every summer I lecture two groups about the political and cultural history of Finland and Russia on Russian river and Baltic Sea cruises organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. History is also a big hobby of yours. Yes, a very big hobby that includes Czech history. I love to read and history is my favorite area of reading. I am very interested in Czech history, specifically the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the first Czech Republic. If you could meet any historical character who would you like it to be? I would like to have met Tomas Masaryk and Charles IV. From among my compatriots it would have been Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln because they were both very enlightened men ahead of their times. I think I could learn much from their wisdom. What is your favorite place in the world? Of the countries you have been to so far, which ones did you like the most? I have been to a hundred countries and the Czech Republic is my favorite. Prague has a very special appeal, it really is a magical city. Living in the Old Town I am overwhelmed by the architecture every day I walk on the streets of Prague. I enjoy the coffee-house culture of Prague. I go every day to the Dolce Vita Cafe to read the Herald Tribune. I also really like to go to the countryside and visit Czech castles. My favorite destinations are Marianske Lazne, Cesky Krumlov and Valtice with its Baroque Music Festival. By Andrea Soukalova â€˘ â€˘â€˘
ceskou verzi naleznete na www.clubmagazine.cz
Interview by Andrea Soukalova in Prague Club magazine, Czech Republic, V/2005 pages 104 & 105