Wade Gregory: ASCA’S ENGAGEMENT IN THE AMERICAS

WHEN: 28 May 2013
WHERE: Goodwin House, Alexandria, Virginia
INTERVIEWER: Crystia Sonevytsky

Chrystia: Welcome to both of you, Wade and Ann Gregory, and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Will you begin with some background on your early life.

Wade: I was born June 1924 on a farm in Eastern Pennsylvania. I was the fourth of five children I went to a one-room rural school for grade school and then to Weatherly, a small town two miles away, for high school. I graduated from high school in 1941 and went on to Penn State to study Agricultural Economics.

In December 1942, in the midst of WWII, I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves, in a program that would allow me to finish college before reporting for active duty. However, the program was changed in the Spring of 1943 and we were sworn in on active duty and went to class as a Marine Reserve in uniform. I graduated in 1944 in a speeded up program so that I could graduate before reporting for boot camp at Paris Island.

Chrystia: Where were you during the war?

Wade: After I completed training in the summer of 1945, I went to a staging area in Guam. My time in the Marine Corps was spent without engaging in any battles. I was neither shot at nor did I shoot at anyone. I was among the first troops to enter Japan at the end of the war. We were sent to occupy Japan shortly after the second atomic bomb was dropped. Our point of entry was Nagasaki. I was discharged from the Marine Corps in June 1946.

I had a Fellowship from Penn State and returned there to get a Masters degree in Agricultural Economics. After graduating, l worked as a Research Associate in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Penn State until I accepted an offer of work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was assigned to work with the Alabama Research Station at Auburn, Alabama.
In 1950, I married Ann Berkhimer, also a Penn State graduate,, and we started our family in Auburn, Alabama. We had three children, a boy and two girls. In the fall of 1953, I received a fellowship to continue my graduate studies in Economics at the University of Chicago. I was only given a one year leave of absence by USDA, and after that I returned to Auburn.

After 3 more years at Auburn, I received a call from the University of Chicago to join a program in Chile to establish an improved Economics Faculty at The Catholic University of Chile. I received a 2 year leave of absence from USDA and we moved to Santiago in September, 1958. At end of two years, the program had one more year to go. I requested an additional year of leave. USDA replied that it could not keep the position open for another year. I would either have to return or resign. I wanted to finish the contract in Chile and so I resigned.

After three years in Santiago (1958-1961), I returned to the U.S. unemployed. Fortunately, it was at the time of the Alliance for Progress and the Organization of American States (OAS) had no prior experience in agricultural development or agrarian reform, two important issues of the Alliance for Progress. I was hired by the OAS to establish an office to carry out Alliance for Progress programs in Agricultural development and Agrarian Reform. I worked in this position for 2 years. The work entailed travel to the various Latin American countries.

Chrystia: Was this here in Washington?

Wade: Yes, but with a lot of travel to the various Latin American countries to collect data and talk with various ministry officials in their respective countries.

In 1961, when President Kennedy was elected, he was very interested in international activities and as a result the USDA greatly expanded its international programs. At that time there were few USDA employees who had international experience. In October 1963, I was offered employment to return to USDA to direct work related to agricultural development and the role of foreign markets for U.S. exports. I accepted the offer and returned to work with USDA until retirement in 1981. During that time, I traveled to most of the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

My office also provided agricultural specialists for AID (Agency for International Development) as needed. In 1968, AID requested a 5-man team to work with the Columbian Ministry of Agriculture to develop a planning unit and to assist in preparing a 5 year development plan for agriculture.

Chrystia: So did you relocate to Bogota?

Wade: Yes. I headed the 5 man team. Ann and I and our three children lived in Bogota from 1968 to 1971. The assignment was to develop a comprehensive 5-year agricultural development plan. At the end of 3 years, we returned to Arlington. I continued to work with USDA until Iretired in 1981.

After retiring from USDA, I had a short term consulting assignment with FAO in Rom e .. After that, I accepted a 2 year assignment with the Harvard Institute of Development to join a 5 man team to develop a 5 year agricultural development plan for Kenya. Ann and I spent the next two years (April 1983 to June 1985) in Nairobi, Kenya. Upon returning to Arlington, Ann went back to teaching and I got a job in Falls Church. I worked there until Ann retired from teaching in 1990, at which time, I also retired.

Shortly after that, Arlington started to develop an interest in having a Sister City Association, and I joined in the effort to develop an Arlington Sister City organization.

I became involved with Sister Cities in the early ’90s and have been involved ever since.

Chrystia: So you have been one of the founding fathers?

Wade: I became involved in the early ’90s as citizens met to
discuss how and what to do to get a Sister Cities organization up and going. The Arlington County Board thought that Arlington might want to have a Sister City Association. They invited people from different organizations, as well as some appointed people, to discuss among themselves the desirability of Arlington having a Sister City Association. The response was positive. The County Board approved the idea of a sister city and turned it over to citizens to develop. There was a call in 1 992 to anyone interested in participating to attend an organizational meeting in the old library at Washington & Lee High School.

Ann and I attended and we have been members of the Arlington Sister Cities Association ever since.

Chrystia: So you are one of the founding fathers.

Wade: I guess so.

Chrystia: So, can you tell me about the early initiative and how it happened that you first developed a relationship with Aachen, Germany.

Wade: That’s a long time ago. Jack Melnick was the major force in developing a program for the new Sister City Association. After those initial meetings that many people attended, there were 1 5 or 20 people who were very interested in having an active Arlington Sister City Association. This group later became the Board of Directors and I was one of those.

I don’t remember very much about how the decision was made that a city in Germany ought to be our first Sister City. There was a businessman in Arlington dealing in Germany and he was really pushing for a German Sister City. I am not sure how Aachen was selected, but a group went to Aachen to meet with people there to see if they were interested in a relationship with Arlington.

ASCA was first interested in Dusseldorf but that city did not fit the Arlington profile. Aachen was selected because it was much more like the profile of Arlington. I t has a university and many cultural programs. We found the people of Aachen to be very personable and friendly. And in turn we invited people from Aachen to visit Arlington. Aachen already had several Sister Cities, but after visiting Arlington, they decide that they, too, would like to have an Aachen-Arlington Sister City relationship.

Chrystia: When I met you as a member of the board you were very active on the Coyoacan committee but you were also visiting San Miguel with the El Salvador committee. Can you tell me a little about that.

Wade: We have a sister city in Mexico with the city of Coyoacan. I’m not sure how the County Board became interested in a relationship with Mexico. I think because of the large Hispanic population in Arlington there was some sentiment on the County Board that we have should have a relationship with a city in Latin America. Probably because of the proximity of Mexico, it was our first choice. Ann and I were among the first people who went to Mexico to check out Coyoacan. We found the people very hospitable and interested, and it seemed like a good fit. I was the first president of the Arlington-Coyoacan Sister City group, if that’s what you call the leader of the Sister city for Coyoacan. We had several exchanges with high schools back and forth and also with adult groups. If I may digress, one of the disappointments I have with the Sister City activities is that it seems the major activity for adults is to serve as chaperones. There is little or no opportunity for adults to meet other adults as we did with the Coyoacan group. At that time, there were home visits for people from Coyoacan. Some stayed in hotels, but we made a very determined effort to have our Coyoacan friends spend an evening with Arlington families. I remember that the Mexican couple who stayed with us were very reluctant to have dinner with people they did not know. We reassured them that they would enjoy the visit with an Arlington family and told them that their hosts could speak Spanish. The home selected for them to visit was the home of Walter Tejada. They returned from their dinner visit very enthusiastic and very happy that they had gone. It is my wish that there were more programs like this.

Relations with Coyoacan took a sad turn because the organization in Coyoacan was tied very closely with the office of the mayor and when the mayor was defeated in the next election, the Coyocan Sister Committee also disbanded and thus there was no citizen organization to support the sister city of Coyoacan. As a result, activities with Coyoacan stopped. I want to add that while we had an active program in Coyoacan, the Mexican Consulate in D.C. was extremely cooperative in helping to organize and carry on activities. Fortunately there have been some new people on the ASCA board and they are very interested and active in reviving this relationship; and it appears to have taken new life.

Also at this time, the Salvadorian community in Arlington was very active in working with the Sister City Board to have an Arlington­ San Miguel Sister City. The County Board was also interested in having a Sister City in El Salvador. As a result, Salvadorians interested in having a sister city relationship with San Miguel started coming to Sister City Board meetings. Since many of them preferred to speak Spanish rather than English, their participation in meetings was limited. Because I could speak a little Spanish, I tried to help them. I met with them to help form a group to apply for an Arlington-San Miguel Sister City relationship.

Ann and I were among the group that went to El Salvador to talk about having a Sister City relationship between Arlington and San Miguel. A group from San Miguel came to Washington and joint signings took place; one here and one in San Miguel. I stayed with the El Salvador Committee for 3 or 4 years trying to help them become a greater part of the ASCA rather than a separate entity.

The next Sister City relationship was with Reims, France. There
was a very strong group in Arlington interested in Reims and they assumed all the responsibilities for the formation of an Arlington­Reims Sister City. As a Board member, I followed activities with Reims but had no part in that relationship. One year, there were plans for a group from Arlington to take part in a Joan of Arc celebration in Reims and Ann and I went on that trip. We had a wonderful time and much to our delight, we stayed with a French family for our time in Reims. Our hosts could not have been more helpful and hospitable; they really made our stay in Reims most enjoyable, even though the wife spoke little English and the husband none at all.

Fortunately, at this time, Chrystia Sonevytsky had been working for several years to get a Sister City program going in Ukraine and had arranged for a trip to Ukraine following our time in Reims. For four years, Chrystia had been meeting with the Arlington Sister Cities Board trying to tell us about the benefits of having a sister city in Ukraine. In the beginning, I was very skeptical that people in Arlington would be interested in Ukraine. How wrong I was. Many people did not even know where Ukraine was. I could not imagine that there would be much interest on the part of Arlingtonians to travel to Ukraine. Chrystia kept worki ng away and her efforts culminated in a group going to Ukraine. Much to my amazement, there were many people in Arlington who had a great interest in Ukraine. Our reception in Ukraine could not have been warmer. We had a wonderful time there. However, because of language difficulties, we did little conversing. We left Ukraine, however, with the idea that Arlington could have another good Sister City in Ukraine.

That was about the extent of my involvement with Ukraine except that Ann and I went to the signing ceremonies in both Ukraine
and Arlington.

Chrystia: This was in 2011. Tell us about some early programs.

Wade: To go back to the early years of Arlington Sisters Cities programs. Early on, there was an intern program in which ASCA would sponsor one or two interns. It turned out that all of the interns were from Germany, sponsored by the Aachen Sister City program. Ann and I had the privilege of hosting two of the interns with whom we are still corresponding and have also visited in the home of one of them.

Chrystia: They stayed with you at Goodwin House?

Wade: No, at that time we were living in Arlington.

Chrystia: Was this an internship program for work, of what was it comprised?

Wade: Arlington County assisted in finding work programs but most of the programs were working with civic or community programs or private businesses. They were all unpaid positions. Sister City members provided room and board. I think interns provided their own international transportation. The intern Program only lasted three or four years. The last program was an exchange between employees of the Aachen government and the County government. Ann and I had the privilege of hosting the Aachen person with whom we are still corresponding.

Chrystia: Was there also reciprocity? Did someone from Arlington go to Aachen?

Wade: Yes, but only in the last exchange between Arlington and Aachen governments. I think reciprocity was one aspect that made this a very successful program.

Chrystia: Based on your experience and length of time serving on the Board you have seen various things thrive, others die.
How do you envision a Sister City organization of the future or even at the moment. What would you like to see implemented, changed, or done away with?

Wade: I did mention the involvement in more adult activities. The Sister City movement was the initiative of President Eisenhower who thought the best hope for world peace was for citizen exchanges between countries so that people from different countries would get to know each other. While exchanges of junior and senior high school students are very desirable, I would like to see more individual to individual adult exchanges.

I am very pleased that the Arlington Sister Cities Association has expanded and now has sister cities in five different countries.

Initially ASCA had an annual budget of around $10,000. Because of the small budget, some of the activities were paid for by individuals. Arlington County was very helpful in providing some services, however. Unfortunately, there were some Arlington citizens that objected to the County spending any money on Sister City programs. While the County Board was helpful in the early years, it had to careful not to cause citizen objections to the program. This has now changed and the budget has grown from an annual budget of $10,000 to the current budget of over
$40,000.

I really don’t have any concrete suggestions for improvements. I think the officers and board members ought to be congratulated for the efforts they have put into making the Arlington Sister Cities Association a huge success.

Chrystia: So other than adult exchanges is there an area that you would like to see emphasized? In a way, this is happening in the Aachen program in the elementary school exchanges. Is that something that could be emphasized?

Wade: In my aging process, I realize my decreasing energy and ability to take on new responsibilities. So I’m really not in a position to suggest new or additional programs, except to mention that I have a continuing interest in meeting and hosting individuals from any and all of our Sister Cities. I realize, however, that this is difficult with us now living in a retirement community.

Chrystia: When we visited lvano Frankivsk, we tried to have as much people-to-people contact as possible.

Wade: One of the problems is language. The first time we went to Ukraine, you had a short course so that we could learn to read street signs and say a few words in the Ukraine language.

Chrystia: Perhaps the Sister City should go to into language instruction.

Wade: When we went to Reims for the celebration of Jean d’ Arc in June, 2008, the people from Arlington stayed with French families. Some of us spoke no French and, as I mentioned, the husband of the family we stayed with, spoke no English, but we all managed to communicate. While ability to speak the language of the family being visited is desirable, lack of language should not be a hindrance nor prevent interchanges.

Chrystia: Well, what about the vision for the future? How do you envision that developing if you had a way of charting the course.

Wade: There is a very small population of Arlington that knows little or anything about the Arlington Sister Cities Association. There is a need to develop programs that would be of interest to the general membership and in which they can participate.

Chrystia: If you recall, the lvano Frankivsk committee sponsors film showings, an annual Carol of the Bells, and other events at the Embassy of Ukraine that the public was invited to. These are ideas that I think are something that should be continued and extended to the other committees.

Wade: That and also that some of the work now done by the Sister Cities Board, should not be done just by board members. Some of these tasks could be transferred to and carried out by non-Board members.

Chrystia: Coming from a little town in Eastern Pennsylvania you have expanded your horizons greatly by working in many different countries, joining the board of ASCA and then making a significant contribution on the board with the development of the Coyoacan and El Salvador Committees and offering support for the lvano Frankivsk Committee by traveling with Ann to Ukraine twice, once for the initial visit and then to the signing ceremony. So I would say you have done a great deal of growing as an individual as has your wife Ann.  I know you have been involved in teaching English in countries such as Romania and other places. Can you tell us a little about that.

Wade: Our church has a program of teaching English as a second language. We got involved in that program 15 years ago. This was largely teaching English to people from Latin America who had very limited ability to speak English. We enjoyed teaching English as a second language and participated in other opportunities as they arose. One such opportunity occurred in Romania where we were part of a group that taught English at a school. In addition, we taught English to a group that was interested in meeting outside of school. Our church also had a program in the Czech Republic to teach English at a summer camp where we worked for five years.

Chrystia: Would this be a program that could be developed by Sister Cities and send instructors to ASCA sister cities to do that type of work.

Wade: This could be an activity in which all members could participate. I don’t know, but there might be interest in such a program. It would take considerable planning for it to be successful.

Chrystia: If you had to organize something like this, how do you envision something like this happening? What about transportation costs? Would the volunteers pay their own way?

Wade: We paid our own transportation costs for the programs in which we participated. However, there may be a need to provide some financial assistance. The foreign programs in which we taught English had some kind of U.S. sponsor. If ASCA were to develop such a program, I think our Sister City in whatever place, should be an active partner in planning and developing the program. We usually paid a fee to take ca re of in-country program costs. In return, we were provided room and board.

Chrystia: Was this with families? What length of time did you have to commit to?

Wade: The usual time was three weeks, and we did not stay with families.

Chrystia: Do you envision this as a good adult activity that the members of ASCA could be involved in?

Wade: Someone would have to have a vision and imagination to make it happen. There would have to be a training period and participants should enjoy living in a new and different environment, and be able to work in a non-English environment.

Chrystia: So, looking at the model you have proposed, if a model like that could be developed within the ASCA organization, it would be a very useful way of meeting different needs both here and there and also reaching our membership so that they would feel that there is an opportunity to serve.

Chrystia: You have just offered something very useful to consider.

Wade: We already have Arlington teachers who are teaching English in El Salvador. They might be willing to conduct the training course here for those interested.

Chrystia: You have come a long way from the little town of Weatherly, PA. Is there anything else that you would like to add to this to make it complete?

Wade: Only to say that I very much enjoyed the years I spent as a Board member, as well as the various activities I was privileged to be part of. I profited a lot from being a part of the Arlington Sister Cities Association.

Chrystia: When do you think is a good time to become involved? Is it age specific?

Wade: I don’t know of any specific time. I would say, the sooner, the better. The kids who are involved in student exchanges, feel that they have profited greatly from their Sister City activities.

Chrystia: I thank you very much. Wade: Thank you for the opportunity.