Thursday, May 25, 2017

To smell the roses

‘It’s a book about enjoying, not dreading retirement. And yes, it’s about stopping - stopping, at long last, to smell the roses. We’ve done just that.’ This is the much-honoured educator and priest Theodore M. Hesburgh introducing the diary of his travels, with Ned Joyce, round the world. Ted, as he was known, was president the University of Notre Dame for 35 years, and Ned was his vice-president for the same period - a period during which Notre Dame became one of the top universities in the United States.

Hesburgh was born in Syracuse, New York  on 25 May 1917. After finishing high school, he entered the Holy Cross seminary on the University of Notre Dame campus, in the very north of Indiana state. He was sent to Rome to study for advanced degrees in philosophy and theology, but with the start of the Second World War he returned to the United States where he was ordained at Notre Dame in 1943. He studied for his doctorate in sacred theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington D. C.. Subsequently, he was sent back to Notre Dame to teach naval officers under wartime training, and to serve as chaplain to returning veterans.

In 1948, Hesburgh became head of the department of theology at Notre Dame; and the following year he was named as executive vice-president. From 1952, he was the university’s president, serving for 35 years in that capacity (with vice-president Ned Joyce, also a priest, serving the same long term) and having the most profound and long-lasting positive impact on the university’s growth and status. For example, he liberalised the rules of student life, promoted academic freedom, helped make Notre Dame one of the top universities in the country, doubling its enrolment and greatly increasing its funds. He was also responsible for overseeing the admittance of women students, and for transferring its governance from the Holy Cross to a mixed lay and religious board.

But Hesburgh played a much wider role in public affairs, holding more than a dozen appointments to bodies such as the National Science Foundation, the Civil Rights Commission, the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, and the Overseas Development Council. He was a key figure in the student movement against the Vietnam war, and for 15 years served as the permanent Vatican representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.  In 1964, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honour, by President Lyndon Johnson. After retirement from Notre Dame, he continued to serve on public bodies, and received many public honours - indeed he holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for largest number of honorary degrees, having been awarded 150 (all are listed in his Wikipedia entry!). He died in 2015. Further biographical information is available online thanks to Notre Dame (which is holding a mass today to celebrate Hesburgh’s centenary), The New York Times, Encyclopedia.com, Encyclop√¶dia Britannica and The Catholic World Report.

In their first year of retirement, 1987-1988, Hesburgh and Ned Joyce went on various excursions to all parts of the world, including South America, Asia and Antartica. Hesburgh kept a detailed diary of their journeys, which was then published by Doubleday in 1992 as Travels with Ted & Ned. Ted opens his introduction to the diary as follows: ‘This is obviously a book about travel and two seventy-year-old Holy Cross priests who did the traveling. It was the way we chose to begin our retirement after working together for thirty-five years as president and executive vice president of the University of Notre Dame. Our friends call us Ted and Ned.’ And he concludes it with this: ‘This book, therefore, isn’t just about travel, as much fun as travel can be. Fundamentally it’s a book about totally changing one’s ordinary, lifelong way of living without coming apart at the seams. It’s a book about enjoying, not dreading retirement. And yes, it’s about stopping - stopping, at long last, to smell the roses. We’ve done just that.’ A few pages can be previewed at Amazon.

As travel diaries go, it’s not the most scintillating of reads, rather mundane in fact (and Coca-Cola heavy!), as the following extracts reveal.

12 November 1987
‘Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We had a wake-up call at 5:30 this morning for those who wanted to see the Rio harbor from afar. I got up for it, but it was too foggy and I took one look and went back to bed. We landed here about 7:30 and were finally off the ship at nine o’clock. Gustavo de S√°, a fine young fellow who’s Coca-Cola’s public relations man in Rio, smoothed our way through customs and delivered us to the Othon Hotel on Copacabana beach. Our rooms, one atop the other on the eighth and ninth floors, have a magnificent panoramic view - Corcovado, the mountain with the famous statue of Christ the Savior on its top, plus the whole bay and the beach.

Our main activity today was nailing down all the reservations we’re going to need between now and December 6, the day we return to the United States. It was no easy task, even though we knew, generally, where we wanted to be and when. Because of a strike, all the computers at the airport were down. Fortunately, the travel department at Coca-Cola came through for us - as they have done several times before.

Once we had the nitty gritty travel details out of the way, I went out to buy a topaz for my ever-faithful secretary, Helen Hosinski, who will have to type all of these notes. Again, thanks to Coca-Cola, I not only found a fine stone at a third of the price it would cost in the states, but at a 25 percent discount as well. As you probably know, Brazil leads the world in the production of semiprecious gemstones.

Rio looks a lot better than it did when I was here several years ago with the Chase Manhattan Bank board. Yet the country is in terrible financial shape and the most familiar gripe is about the economy. Somehow, though, most people on the street appear to be happy. It probably has something to do with the customary upbeat attitude of the people who live in Rio. They call themselves Cariocas, which means people who put happiness and good times ahead of work and worry.

We were warned repeatedly not to walk alone on the beach or to take along anything of value that could be easily snatched. The explanation was that there is so much poverty here that those who are accustomed to living by their wits are using them a little too broadly these days.

Tonight we had dinner at the home of Roberto Marinho, often described as the most important person in Brazil. He’s the editor of O Globo, one of the two main newspapers in the country. In addition, he owns about sixty radio and television stations and, more important, has donated airtime to the teaching of reading and writing to illiterates. Roberto is also a member of our International Advisory Council for the Kellogg Institute of International Studies at Notre Dame. I met him for the first time a few years ago when he and I received honorary degrees from the University of Brasilia.

Our young Coca-Cola friend, Gustavo, and his girlfriend, Cristiana, who works in Marinho Enterprises, were also invited to Roberto’s house for dinner. The other invitees were Father Laercio Dias de Moura, a Jesuit who is rector of the Catholic University here, and Walter Poyares and his wife, Maria Lucia. He is a professor of communications and a top adviser to Roberto.

The Marinho home is almost impossible to describe. First of all, it’s high on a hill with a wonderful view of the statue of Christ the Savior. At night the view is even more spectacular, because the statue is lighted. The house is set in the middle of a primitive jungle forest with a stream running through it. Inside, the walls are hung with one of the best art collections in Brazil.

Roberto is in his eighties, but looks much younger. When we arrived, he said “Tonight we speak French.” His younger wife, Ruth, prepared a very tasty dinner to go along with the conversation, which included a discussion of our Kellogg Institute at Notre Dame. During the course of the conversation I tried to persuade Roberto to come to our next meeting. By the way, Ned and I dressed up in black tonight, the first time we’ve done this in the last six weeks.’

16 November 1987
‘Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Shortly after 5:30 A.M. we celebrated our last Mass in Rio. We arrived at the airport around seven and after an hour’s delay were in Brasilia by 9:30. As usual, we were met by someone from Coca-Cola, a driver named Jonas, who spoke only Portuguese, but understood my Spanish perfectly. I told him that this was Ned’s first visit to Brasilia, and I think Jonas tried extra hard to make sure that Ned saw everything.

First we went up in the TV tower in the middle of town so that Ned could get a look at the whole government setup, which runs on north-south and east-west axes. Once we had grasped the layout, we did a quick drive-by tour of all the main buildings. These included the cathedral, the Senate, the House of Deputies, all sixteen ministries, the Supreme Court, the Presidential Palace, and, later on, the president’s residence.

The city has grown a great deal since I was last here. It now has about 1.2 million inhabitants. That makes it much smaller than either Rio or Sao Paulo, but it must be remembered that Brazilia [sic] was carved out of the jungle from scratch. When I was here the first time more than twenty years ago, it was just a barren plain and everything was full of red dust. Today, there are lawns and flowers and greenery everywhere. Because the city was planned, it has much better buildings, housing, roads, and general organization than either Rio or Sao Paulo. The buildings were designed by Oscar Niemeyer, perhaps the most famous architect in Brazil.

For lunch we had currasco [sic], a first experience for Ned. This typical Brazilian dish is a combination of pork, lamb, chicken, beef, and sausages, all barbecued. It’s served with rice and farina, a coarse flour concoction, and, of course, cold beer. I remembered the restaurant from my last visit. It had a reputation then for the best currasco [sic] in town, and it was apparent to both of us that the quality had not diminished. Ned was hooked immediately.

After lunch, we made quick stops at the Coca-Cola office, the university, where we spent a few minutes with the rector, Dr. Cristovan, and the American Embassy, where we stayed just long enough to find out from the Marine guard that Notre Dame had beaten Alabama last Saturday. Then it was on to the airport for our flight to Sao Paulo, where we will stay just long enough to have a chat with Chris Lund, a Notre Dame alumnus from the States.

Chris and his daughter Carmen, a Notre Dame student, met us at the Sao Paulo airport and took us to the family home on the outskirts of town. We had a long talk, mainly about the scholarship that he is setting up for Latin American students, especially those here in Brazil. After that, it was off to bed in the guesthouse.’

17 November 1987
‘Sao Paulo, Brazil. This was our final day in Brazil. We were up at 6:30 A.M. for Mass with the family and household staff. After a continental breakfast, we dropped Chris off at the Brazilian Chamber of Commerce office, where he is president for Sao Paulo, the largest council in Brazil. Then it was on to the airport. The horrendous traffic doubled our travel time compared with the day before. Once there, we found a Miami paper and learned that we really clobbered Alabama last Saturday. This news was especially welcomed by Ned, who looked after Notre Dame athletics for all those thirty-five years he was executive vice president, and for whom the lean years of the early 1980s were still a fresh memory.

Our flight to Santiago, Chile, took about four hours in a 737. At the airport, waiting to welcome us, were our good friends Father George Canepa, a Chilean Holy Cross priest, and Father Charlie Delaney, a classmate of Ned’s. Ned stayed with Charlie, who is in charge of seminarian formation here, and I moved in with George. When I arrived at the Casa Santa Maria, my billet for the stay here, I called Helen back at the office to catch up with the news. I also asked her to arrange for overcoats for Ned and me in New York, where we’ll be arriving in about three weeks with nothing but summer clothes.

Tonight, Ned and I had dinner with Alejandro Foxley and his wife, Giselle, at their home. Father Ernie Bartell, director of the Kellogg Institute, also joined us, so there was a lot of shop talk, as might be imagined. Mostly, we discussed the new Hesburgh International Building at Notre Dame, which will house our Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies as well as the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. Both these institutes are doing very important work, and in the years ahead I will be devoting a great deal of time to them, as chairman of their International Advisory Boards.’

22 January 1988
‘En Route to Acapulco. This morning we woke up to as calm a sea as we have seen so far. The Pacific is living up to its name. A whole school of dolphins was cavorting off the port side as a number of ships, mainly tankers, passed by en route to Panama. Off the starboard side, we see long rows of mountains on the coastline, as well as a number of islands out at sea. It’s a beautiful sunny day, with the temperature in the high 80s. I finished Sayonara before turning in last night, and now I’m beginning Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and continuing with Burghardt’s Preaching. While I was up on the sports deck reading this morning, I ran into Herb Kaplow. We had a two-hour bull session out in the sun. He and I have known each other for a long time, going back to the late 1950s and the 1960s when I was on the Civil Rights Commission.’

13 February 1988
‘En Route to Milford Sound. We awoke to another slightly overcast day, about 75 to 80 degrees on deck, but getting warmer. The sea is calm. There is only a slight 5-knot wind coming in from the east. We are cruising down the west coast of South Island, having come almost 500 miles since leaving Wellington last night. We’re moving along at 28.5 knots.

This morning we passed Mount Cook. At about 12,000 feet, it is the highest point in New Zealand. As we made our way down the coast toward Milford Sound, the coastline was about twenty miles off our port side, very mountainous, like the coast of Chile, with some snowcapped peaks as well.

Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world. It was formed many millions of years ago when the sea flooded a giant glacial valley. It’s really a fjord that is dominated by a miter peak over a mile high. Pembroke Peak is even a bit higher. From these two peaks, precipitous rock walls plunge deeply into the water. The water is 180 feet deep at the entrance to the sound and 1,680 feet deep at its head.

Fog descended down off the peaks, along with rain, as we approached the head of the sound. Nevertheless, we were able to make out the Milford Sound Hotel and most of the outstanding sights along the way. The scenery was quite spectacular, much like the Norwegian fjords. When we reached the middle of the fjord, we turned around and retraced our route. At 45 degrees south, Milford Sound is the farthest south we will sail on our journey across the world, although we’ll come close to this latitude as we round the bottom of Australia near Melbourne.

Two pastoral consultations took about an hour and a half today. With this many people and particularly the age group, which seems to average around sixty-five, one encounters a wide variety of problems - but opportunities too. Ned and I generally wear a cross on our coat collars, as military chaplains do, so people will know what we’re about, even if they have no need for our services. Cardinal Suahard of Paris expressed it very well, I think, when he spoke of the effect one can have merely by being visible. He called it “the apostolate of one’s presence.” Or as my old Holy Cross friend Charley Sheedy used to say, “Just being there helps.” ’

17 March 1988
‘Singapore is the world’s busiest harbor. Over 30,000 ships call here each year, with one leaving every ten minutes. Singapore was literally nothing until the visionary Sir Stamford Raffles arrived here in 1819 and got the ruling sultan to allow the British East India Company to establish a trading post at the mouth of the Singapore River. A few years later, the British had control of the whole island.

Singapore enjoys the second-highest standard of living in the Orient after Japan. Of the total population of 2.5 million, 77 percent are Chinese, 16 percent Malay, and 5 percent Indian. About 1 percent are Eurasians. The main languages here are Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil (spoken in southern India and parts of Sri Lanka).

Our tour today began with a ride through downtown streets full of high rises and luxury hotels. Because of the scarcity of land, 85 percent of the population here lives in high-rise apartments. Over 60 percent of the population is under the age of twenty. The average family here has about two children. As one goes over the long causeway, one can look to the right (eastward) to the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. To the left (westward) is the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca.

Our first stop was the old palace of the Sultan of Johore (presently king of Malaysia). It makes the White House look like an outhouse. We then visited the mosque, always a major landmark in any Muslim country. Here the Muslims make up about 55 percent of the total population. We visited a rubber plantation, where we saw the rubber flowing from the trees. Then we went to a rubber factory to see how they form the latex into big white blocks of rubber. From there we moved on to visit plantations where they grow cacao, coffee, bananas, and palms for palm oil.

After lunch at a Holiday Inn in Johore Bahru, we stopped at a memorial to those who were killed in World War II, then went back to the ship for Mass. I had Liam O’Murchu, alias Bill Murphy, give a homily in honor of St. Patrick. Bill is the only authentic Irishman on board, so I thought he should do the talking. I’m only half Irish, and Ned is in Katmandu. Anyway, Bill gave a great homily.’


28 March 1988
‘En Route to Tianjin. We woke up this morning to what was probably the worst weather we’ve experienced. The sea was full of whitecaps, the wind was strong, and the rain was pelting down as we passed offshore of Shanghai. To make matters worse, there was fog in all directions, so we couldn’t see anything.

Played bridge for an hour and a half this afternoon, and for a change Ernie and I beat Ned and Faye. I can’t claim it as a great victory, though, because in over 4,000 points scored on both sides, we won by only 30.

The captain invited us to dinner in his private dining room tonight. We had been invited once before, but couldn’t go. This time we did, and it was very nice. As a memento of the occasion, each of us received a necktie with the Cunard logo. This captain understands and practices public relations as well as anyone I’ve ever met. He’ll be a hard act to follow. (Unfortunately, he died of cancer within a year.)

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