University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Information bulletin
(September 1950)

Grohe, Friedrich G. K.
America is different,   pp. 25-29 PDF (2.9 MB)


Page 28


dined to say. But it seemed to me that this less fortunate
type of "Americanism" already belongs to the past and
that we merely find here the remainders of former epochs
which are no longer the dominating forces in this country.
Hitchhiking to Portland, via the Grand Coulee Dam,
Denver, Colo., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Spokane, Wash.,
I got a good impression of the enormous distances and
the vast "living space" in this country. It has always
seemed to me that these tremendous dimensions have
made a decisive contribution to the development of the
American character, the way of living and the form of
democracy that has been established in the United States.
No wonder Americans are used to thinking and working
on a large scale.
U PON LEAVING SPOKANE, I experienced a striking
U example of the liberal and individual ways in which
laws are applied. I was not aware that hitchhiking was
prohibited by law in the state of Washington. Hence I
was stopped by the state police. After I had shown my
identification, however, and a letter from the president
of Michigan State College, the state police not only let
me continue on my way but even advised me where I
could best catch a ride.
This would scarcely have been possible in Germany,
where the letter of the law usually plays a more important
role than its reasonable interpretation. In the US, how-
ever, I found repeatedly that certain laws were not
enforced, if, in that particular case, no actual offense or
crime was intended.
Undoubtedly, the seminar belonged to the most valuable
experiences I had in the United States. For seven weeks
a group of 29 students from 14 countries lived, worked
and studied together under almost ideal conditions.
When we students arrived at Lewis and Clark College,
we were asked to get together and run the seminar our-
selves according to democratic principles.
We decided the entire program -at what time we
wanted to get up, meal hours, number of lectures and
recreation time. We decided our own topics of discussion,
set up daily working schedules for kitchen help, dish-
washing and cleaning the rooms and edited and published
our own newspaper twice a week.
Of course, under this system of almost complete free-
dom, everything did not go smoothly. We made a number
of mistakes which had to be corrected later. But these
very difficulties gave us a useful lesson in democracy
and we learned to understand some of the trouble the
United Nations has from time to time. It would have been
more convenient, in some respects, had we been told by
experienced people what to do. But democracy is never
convenient and we saw the great benefit of learning by
our own mistakes.
N OUR DISCUSSIONS the foreign policy of some
I Western nations was subjected to critical review. We
saw the appearance of some imperialistic trends in the
American economic policy in the Middle East as well as
in South America. We all agreed that the world situation
INFORMATION BULLETIN
Four American college students are taking up post-
graduate studies at the University of Munich on scholar-
ships offered by the Bavarian Ministry of Education and
Culture under the Cultural Exchange Program of HICOG.
Photographed on exchangees' arrival in Munich, above,
left to right, are James Walker of Brooklyn, N.Y., a
graduate of Princeton; Shelton Hicock of New Haven,
Conn., a graduate of Yale; Dr. Alois Hundhammer, Ba-
varian minister of education and culture; Dr. Charles D.
Winning, chief of Public Affairs Division, OLC Bavaria;
Althea Cilley of Boston, Mass., a graduate of Boston U.;
and De Ella Toms of Washington, D.C., a graduate of
Northwestern. Mr. Walker has already spent one year at
Munich U. Mr. Hicock has a bachelor's degree and the
other three masters' degrees in German.  (PRB OLCB photo)
could be improved if the Western democracies, including
the United States, at least would not only practice their
democratic principles in domestic affairs but extend the
adoption of those measures of freedom, justice and human
rights to their foreign policy in their spheres of influence.
At the end of the seminar I was invited to accompany
a friend of mine in his car on a vacation trip to the Grand
Canyon. En route we took a look at the University of
California at Berkeley and while the sun was setting we
drove across the Oakland Bay bridge into San Francisco.
It was one of the few moments in life one never forgets.
Behind us lay Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda, gilded by
the last rays of the setting sun. Before us, tens of
thousands of lights were appearing in San Francisco.
About us, thousands of cars rushed across the magnificent
bridge, the cables of which shone like pure gold in the
evening sun. Indeed an impressive demonstration of
human ability embellished by nature.
SAN FRANCISCO was the American city that impressed
a me by far the most. The steep hills, the cable cars, the
big suspension bridges. Chinatown, the Golden Gate, the
Pacific coast, the California style dominating the archi-
tecture of the residential sections -all contributed to the
particular and unique atmosphere.
In Beverly Hills I found for the first and only time
in the United States something approaching class-
consciousness. We stopped to ask a gardener working on
the street where some of the movie stars lived and in-
quired who was living in the large home to our left. The
gardener replied: "Oh, that is nobody, he just has money!"
I deeply appreciated the almost complete lack of class
distinction in America among the white people. The way
SEPTEMBER 1950
28
i


Go up to Top of Page