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WORLD FOCUS: Becoming an American, part 2

January 12, 2017
By FRANK SHATZ , Lake Placid News

In last week's column, I described why my wife and I chose to settle in the United States and become American citizens after our escape from communist Czechoslovakia in 1954.

I also wrote about how, as the foreign news editor of the largest Hungarian-language newspaper in the country, as a newcomer, I had to learn to appreciate the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution. I took full advantage of it, digging up news and reporting on it.

A vacation in New York state's Adirondack Mountains, however, altered my path of life. We fell in love with the natural beauty of the region. But we realized that making a living in the Adirondack Mountains, as a journalist writing in the Hungarian language, would be impossible. Utilizing the American free enterprise system, we opened a leather-goods store in Lake Placid, the site of the l932 and later 1980 Winter Olympics. We worked hard, using some good business sense, and prospered.

Eventually, I switched over to writing in the English language and became a columnist for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News. When Lake Placid was chosen as the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics, I became the founder and executive director of the Lake Placid Council on Foreign Policy. Utilizing the connections of our chairman, ambassador Roger Tubby, President Harry Truman's former press secretary, our organization served as a link between the residents of a mountain village and the rest of the world.

This function proved its worth during the 1980 Olympics. Hundreds of athletes from around the world became guests of local residents, and the Olympic People-for-People Program was recognized as one of most successful nonsport events of the Games.

People growing up in our country may hardly realize that having the opportunity to set up a new organization and launch programs like those without the need for government permission is uniquely American. Experiencing firsthand the value of the free press, the freedom to start a new business and launch new organizations was a heady experience to me.

After retiring from business, we also established a home in Williamsburg, Virginia, and I become a columnist for the Virginia Gazette, writing mostly on international affairs. Once I told my editor it is ironic that with my eastern European accent, I write for one of America's oldest newspapers. He said, "When they read your column, they can't hear you."

For my service to the College of William & Mary, I was honored with the Prentis Award and was named an Honorary Alumni of the college. In 2001, the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution commending me for my actions during World War II and my contribution to the establishment of the Reves Center for International Studies. In 2003, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, awarded me the Americanism Medal, the highest award given by the Society to a naturalized citizen.

During my 36 years of punditry for the Virginia Gazette, I've written more than 1,500 columns on a variety of subjects. My book, "Reports from a Distant Place," is a compilation of selected columns

As Harry Golden, the noted Jewish-American writer and newspaper publisher used to say, "Only in America!"

Frank Shatz's column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette. Shatz is a Lake Placid seasonal resident. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," a compilation of his selected columns.

 
 

 

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