February 18, 2015
Memory is a tricky thing. Memories can be recorded in diaries, journals, photographs, video, audio, and other media. They are helped by saving old documents, post cards, and letters. The question for many is what to do with these things. Through several fortunate events I was able to gather information and write a story based upon many intense memories of long-ago experiences. The story of Harry Forth is an adventure of a young man struggling to define his personal identity. He was fortunate to receive help from many different people, some of them strangers, as he proceeded on is long odyssey. He learned that in most cases people want to do the right thing by someone else. This helped him to develop a positive outlook on life and to embark on his own adventure to an unknown destination. He did not see the world as a threatening place.
I was fortunate to participate in a summer youth exchange program that helped change my life and point me in a more interesting and successful direction. Many of my classmates in high school seemed doubtful about undertaking such an adventure. Even today, a lot of people are wary about traveling and living abroad in different cultures. The world seems a frightening place to many. Yet, almost everywhere we look there are people of good will who welcome exchanges with others from different countries.
The story of Harry Forth, about whom I have written numerous short stories and an earlier unpublished novel, reflects my belief that international youth exchanges are a vital part of greater understanding among young people of many different societies. Youth exchanges at age 17 to 20 are so important. They open up one to self-discovery and to learning about how others view the world. Fortunately, there are, today, many more youth exchange programs available than when Harry Forth embarked on his adventure. I hope my novel encourages more people of all ages to undertake voyages of discovery and to open up correspondence with people around the world.
Since my earliest childhood in Texas, I have traveled and lived in many different locales around the world. Frequent moves and meeting new people enabled me to learn many skills and, perhaps most important, how to be self-reliant. Through a series of fortunate circumstances, I began college studies in Munich in 1961. European History, German literature, and Latin became major guideposts in my intellectual development. Returning to the United States in 1965, I entered graduate school at the University of Maryland and continued studying modern European history. After earning a Master’s degree I switched majors and studied Russian and Soviet history in pursuit of a Ph.D. Later, I developed my career in public affairs after joining the Foreign Service. I served in different diplomatic positions in South Asia, Europe, and East Asia. I retired from the U.S. State Department in 2000 and continued working part-time for several years in the Office of International Visitors. International youth exchange programs were a special interest because of my own experiences. I have continued writing that reflects my travels and my life among people of different cultures and regions of our planet. I have posted essays on foreign policy topics on AmericanDiplomacy.org and have written commentary for the Foreign Service Journal. My novel "The Extraordinary Journey of Harry Forth" captures much of my first international travel experience to Europe.