I was disappointed not long ago when I heard that Ann Coulter's scheduled talk at Berkeley was cancelled by the university and the conservative Young America's Foundation that had sponsored her. The action was taken in response to serious concerns about student and project-sponsor safety. Violence on campus has become a hallmark of that once prestigious university and the ultra-liberal element there has effectively abducted reason in their mind-boggling narcissistic tantrums. One radio talk show host characterized the actions and attitudes of Berkeley students as "Fascist" in their physical repression of free speech—which ironically the liberal community loudly demands when it serves their own purpose. How easily they forget that it is a right that ALL American citizens enjoy.
Back in the 90s, I don't recall the actual date, I was invited to participate in a program hosted jointly at Berkeley by the Classics Department of the University and the San Francisco Ancient Coin Club. I delivered a paper about clasped hands as a symbol of marriage on ancient coins. The atmosphere was very collegial and friendly. Nobody threatened nor insulted me. In fact, I was left with a very good feeling about Berkeley in general. What in the world happened between then and now?
Whatever it was, it didn't just happen recently. After founding the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild in 2004, I started attending U.S. State Department hearings of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington DC. My intention was to establish a dialogue with Archaeologists who opposed the 600-year tradition of private ownership of ancient coins and members of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that was then becoming proactive in adding ancient coins to designated lists of material restricted from importation into the United States. I had in fact sent a formal letter to Prof. Jane Waldbaum, then president of the Archaeological Institute of America, suggesting that our respective organizations had common interests and might explore areas of potential cooperation. She was then a Professor in the University of Wisconsin system and I mentioned our common ground, at least geographically—since I was a post-graduate student at Wisconsin and a PhD candidate. I never did receive a reply (in retrospect, no great surprise). At one of the CPAC meetings about six months later, while waiting in the lobby for clearance to enter, I happened to recognize Professor Waldbaum standing alone in the room. I walked over and introduced myself. I mentioned that I had recently sent her a letter and wondered if she had received it. She looked me straight in the eye and said "yes", then without another word, turned and walked away. At that point, I had a pretty clear indication where we were headed. Granted, I was only a PhD candidate at UW, but I had by that time become fairly well recognized in the field of Numismatics as an author, publisher and collector advocate. She knew very well who I was and who I represented. In a way, I suppose I should thank Jane Waldbaum for laying it out so clearly. That simple act of arrogance taught me a lesson that no classroom exercise ever could. Education is an ongoing adventure and my 75 years on this earth have certainly been adventurous. What I have learned about people is worth its weight in gold.
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