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Aug 30·edited Aug 30Author

I was in a Moscow hotel in 1970 during the cold war and could not resist the urge to write a note to my 1964 college roommate, Tom, who was then teaching ROTC at Purdue. He was a Barry Goldwater fan during the ‘60s.

On hotel stationery, I scribbled this famous line from Karl Marx: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” noting the Aeroflot flier I picked up from the plane coming into Russia had substituted “work” for “abilities” in the famous quote.

“Has the government made this slight but significant word change because of the faltering Russian economy?” I asked in my note to Tom.

Several months later, I heard back from not-so-grateful Tom. My note had been opened before he received it. And we wondered who had opened it. Russian authorities? Or U.S. security forces? It was not a question an ROTC instructor wanted to contemplate.

But I didn’t realize how insensitive it was to send that note until a few years later when a federal agent trekked all the way into a Wisconsin hay field where Dad and I were baling hay to interview me and record my thoughts about Tom’s loyalty to the U.S.

* When did you make an off-the-wall decision earlier in life that, with hindsight, you now find reasonable and fun to recall?

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