Friday, August 9, 2013

Chautauqua: The Biggest and Best Summer Camp Ever

Just got back home last night from Chautauqua, New York, where I visited the Chautauqua Institution, a place that has to be the biggest and best summer camp in all the world.

Founded in 1847, initially as a place to teach Sunday school teachers how to teach, and for wealthy New York industrialists to have a place to go for cultural enrichment, Chautauqua has developed into a place of culture, sports, and art that has had a global impact.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaking
at Chautauqua's CLSC graduation.
Receiving my 2012 CLSC certificate
from Jeff Miller, coordinator for
I was introduced to Chautauqua by Sharon Hudson Dean, who was my public affairs counselor when I was ambassador to Zimbabwe. She organized a Zimbabwe version of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) in Zimbabwe using Kindles. The first group in our Zimbabwe circle graduated in 2012 – and, I count myself in that class – and the second this year. I was invited to participate in the recognition ceremony. I spoke at the vigil on Sunday, Aug. 4, telling the group what the CLSC meant to Zimbabweans, and how it served to bring disparate groups in that politically unstable country together. On Wednesday, Aug. 7, the official recognition ceremony, or graduation, was held, and I read the names of the Zimbabwean graduates. The highlight of the day was sharing the podium with former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, and also a Chautauqua alum.

That afternoon, I joined a group of Foreign Service Officers for a panel discussion before a group of more than 200 people where we talked about life in the Foreign Service. Other speakers during the week included R. Nicholas Burns, former ambassador to NATO, Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Center, and many others.
The Clock Tower and
Paddle Boat Landing

Paddle boat on Chautauqua Lake
Hagen-Wensley Guest
When I wasn’t involved in official activities, I walked – actually, with my bruised hip, hobbled – the grounds; watching the sailboats on Chautauqua Lake, the paddle wheel steam boat, kids biking and enjoying the fresh air, attended a couple of lectures, and a few concerts. We stayed at historic Hagen-Wensley Guest House, which is just down the hill from  the even more historic Athenaeum Hotel, both buildings constructed in the 1800s.
The Athenaeum Hotel

We finally left on Thursday morning, making a 200-mile detour to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and then the seven-hour drive back to Washington through western New York and Pennsylvania. It was great to be back home, but I enjoyed my week in summer camp. I think the photos show why.

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