I was fortunate enough to attend the first annual Lennart Meri Memorial Conference at the SAS Radisson Hotel in Tallinn over the weekend.
In coming posts I'd like to describe for you not the content of the event -- which is too ginormous to adequately represent in a blog -- but impressions of the scene in which people of various affiliations, presidents, generals, journalists, and "sirs" (for how else can they be described?) mingle to talk about energy, security, and Meri himself.
I was educated in Washington, DC, and so meeting the well known is not new to me. I once encountered former attorney general Janet Reno outside a liquor store in Chinatown at 11 pm during my studies. Yet at the same time, there is a certain rush that accompanies one when being in the presence of people like Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland.
The rush stems from the knowledge that if you trip and fall, splattering red wine on the president, you will not only feel like a total fool, you will have caused an 'international incident' that may be reported on the Conan O'Brien show. So, I recommend drinking white wine instead to lessen the potential for such diplomatic intrigue.
Anyway, it was humbling from the viewpoint of someone that cares very much about Estonia that such dignitaries and generally interesting people could be lured to Tallinn at the end of March to honor their former president, now one year passed. Most states have presidents, but few are worthy of such conferences it seems.
As I crawled into bed on the first night, I turned on ETV and found myself engrossed in a documentary about all sorts of things --Finno-Ugric tribespeople, Estonian and Finnish nationalism, and there, hosting this particularly interesting film was the main attraction -- Meri himself -- looking middle-aged, yet cool.
He was speaking Estonian in a way that lured you in -- not the muddiness of an Estonian guy in the pub, or the hurried intonation of the politician. The words swirled in my ears as I tried to make sense of them. And I thought, "How cool is this? Here we have a documentary film maker that went on to become president of his country and to be revered as a thinker, so much so that his memory could gather others from around the globe to gather and do just that -- think!"
It's a sweet legacy. As an American, I was jealous.