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Four Years, Four World Leaders

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Alumna of the Year

FROM THE ARCHIVES

From 1995 to 1998, Country Day students and faculty had the privilege of hosting Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres, John Major, and Lech Walesa

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OVER A REMARKABLE four-year period in the late 1990s, Country Day students had the opportunity to engage with world leaders and renowned peacemakers without ever having to leave Charlotte. In October 1995, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was the first to visit. According to Et cetera, a parent newsletter at the time, “Mr. Gorbachev was greeted by Head of School Margaret Gragg and a group of students who presented him with bread and salt, an old Russian custom.”

Mikhail Gorbachev was introduced at Upper School assembly by Student Body President Ivon Rohrer ’96.

Mikhail Gorbachev was introduced at Upper School assembly by Student Body President Ivon Rohrer ’96.

The following fall, in October 1996, Country Day made history by becoming the only school in the U.S. to receive a visit from Shimon Peres, the former prime minister of Israel and also a Nobel Peace Prize winner. From Et cetera: “Peres engaged in a 45-minute question-and-answer session with six students who represented the Upper School at assembly. More than 80 students and teachers from area high schools were also invited to hear the words of a man who has influenced the course of history.”

Shimon Peres talked with Marni Strumwasser ’98 and other student leaders before his presentation at assembly.

Shimon Peres talked with Marni Strumwasser ’98 and other student leaders before his presentation at assembly.

John Major, the former prime minister of Great Britain, visited Country Day in October 1997. On the way to the Upper School assembly, Mr. Major stopped to talk and shake hands with Lower School students along the way. From Et cetera: “One fourth grader commented, ‘My mom’s not even going to make me wash my hands…that was one of the best moments of my life!’”

Head of School Emeritus Margaret Gragg Bissell had the privilege of hosting four world leaders during her tenure, including John Major, who was also greeted by Jay Kenney ’98.

Head of School Emeritus Margaret Gragg Bissell had the privilege of hosting four world leaders during her tenure, including John Major, who was also greeted by Jay Kenney ’98.

Finally, in February 1998, Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner, visited Country Day (coincidentally on the same day we also hosted Mark Mathabane, author of Kaffir Boy, a riveting account of apartheid in South Africa). Mr. Walesa told the students, “The man on the street can be a greater hero than someone who is famous. I’ve known a lot of presidents and kings, but the common people who struggle are often more interesting and more valuable.”

Lower School students helped welcome Lech Walesa to Cannon Campus before he spoke with Upper School students at an assembly.

Lower School students helped welcome Lech Walesa to Cannon Campus before he spoke with Upper School students at an assembly.

These visits by world leaders coincided with their speaking engagements to the Charlotte Foreign Policy Forum. Robert Pittenger, alumni parent, was president of that group at the time and was instrumental in arranging the visits.