First, I had a brief meeting with the Honorable Charles Larson, the US Ambassador to Latvia.
Maj. Larson seemed like an smart, capable fellow. He also is an author — and attended the University of Iowa Law School. So — strangely — we had a great discussion of Frank Conroy’s memoirs. (Conroy ran the University of Iowa writing program for many years.) I got a chance to see Maj. Larson’s newly-published book — Heroes Among Us — a book that tells the stories of a handful of soldiers who earned the Silver Star.
I then met with Sarmite Elerte, the editor-in-chief of Diena, the country’s most significant newspaper. This meeting, especially, left me completely overwhelmed. Diena is — without doubt — Latvia’s equivalent of the New York Times. Its circulation of 300,000 (12% of the population) would translate to roughly 27,000,000 in the United States. Diena is also a highly-respected force in the nation, both culturally and politically. They are at the heart, it seems, of Latvian policy-making.
The fact that she took an hour out of her hectic day to meet with me is remarkable. We had a broad and far-reaching conversation (with members of Dienas Gramata, and writers and editors from the paper, as well). My Latvian, of course, was a bit broken — it is always a bit broken. The conversation veered between two languages (as much of my visit has).