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The Visit to Orange County by Group of High-Ranking Soviets

May 15, 1988

The letters (May 8) opposing the visit of high-ranking Soviets to Orange County were written by people who knew nothing about the Dartmouth conferences.

In 1960, then President Eisenhower proposed that dedicated, informed private citizens meet with the Soviets to start a dialogue that could explore the common interests and the differences between the two powers. This has now become the longest continuing non-official dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Recently the Soviets agreed to expand the conference to include the "public dimension" in Orange County, of all places. This process will be repeated with Soviet citizens in Russia two years from now.

The citizen-participants in Orange County were never intended to be "experts." They were selected from throughout the United States because they were well-informed, thoughtful and articulate "amateurs." All had participated in the nonpartisan National Issues Forum discussions on "The Superpowers: Nuclear Weapons and National Security." In addition, all were supplied with materials referring to the U.S.-Soviet relationship since 1917, and all attended orientations on the subject. Everyone knew about Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Poland.

The citizen-participants came to the meeting with a healthy dose of skepticism. They came away still skeptical, but perhaps less so.

We can't afford the closed minds presented in the published letters. Our world includes the Russians whether we like it or not. Our greatest risk is in not talking with them. We must continue to talk with them everywhere, even in Orange County.

JERRY SCHWARTZ

Irvine

Jerry Schwartz was a citizen-participant in the Orange County public dimension portion of the 1988 Dartmouth Conference.

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