Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union who ended Communist rule in Eastern Europe and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, delivered a major address titled “Perspectives on Global Change” Wednesday at Allan P. Kirby Sports Center.
Lafayette President Daniel H. Weiss introduced Gorbachev and hosted the question-and-answer session after the talk.
Gorbachev discussed his policies of perestroika (governmental restructuring) and glasnost (political openness), the fall of the Soviet Union, and his role in ending the Cold War.
“The [Geneva] summit was an amazing event that is still engraved in my memory. In less than three days at that summit, we made enormous progress and started to build initial trust.” he said. “It was madness to continue the arms race. Only through terrible mistrust was it allowed to come about.”
Gorbachev’s visit to Lafayette celebrated the upcoming center for global education made possible by the support of Walter Oechsle ’57 and his wife, Christa.
“Connecting the classroom to the world outside our walls is at the core of the College’s mission,” says Weiss. “We are immensely grateful to Walter and Christa Oechsle for their exemplary dedication, vision, and generosity that are enabling the College to broaden the global dimension of our educational offerings.
“This initiative reflects our commitment to a curriculum that meets the needs of our students and graduates in a complex, rapidly changing world,” Weiss adds. “We are honored that Mikhail Gorbachev, a towering international figure who played a courageous and pivotal role in transforming our world, will play a role as we launch our new center at Lafayette.”
The Oechsle Center for Global Education will be housed in a new academic building with faculty offices, seminar rooms, and state-of-the-art classrooms with international connectivity, in addition to space for public lectures and common areas to encourage dialogue about global issues. Building on the College’s historic strengths, a significantly revised major in international affairs will be the core of the global education program. The curriculum also will include study-abroad courses, a capstone experience, community-based learning, and area studies programs.
As general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991 and president of the Soviet Union in 1990–91, Gorbachev taught the world two new words, perestroika and glasnost, and is credited with implementing revolutionary political and economic reforms in his country that fostered a new policy of peace and cooperation with the United States.
At the 1990 Peace Prize award ceremony, Gidske Anderson, chairperson of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said, “The committee has made this award in recognition of the leading role Mikhail Gorbachev has played in the radical changes that have taken place in East-West relations. He has undoubtedly cooperated with other persons and other nations. But . . . his manifold personal contributions and his efforts on behalf of the Soviet Union have proved decisive.”
Gorbachev’s visit to Lafayette coincides with the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union later this year.