To be a councilman or a full-time disciple of Esperanto? That is the question with which Garden Grove Councilman J. Tilman Williams constantly wrestles. Politics won this year--the 67-year-old Democrat, who has been on the council for 11 years, is up for reelection. But since 1984, when a constituent wrote to him suggesting that world peace would be easier to achieve if everyone spoke the same language, Williams has had a second career. He had read about groups that promoted Esperanto, the little-spoken Latin-based language invented in Russia more than a century ago for just that purpose, so he found a local expert and began to learn.
"It's my hobby now," Williams says. "No matter where I go, I am a disciple of Esperanto." His quest has taken him to the former Soviet Union and China, and this month it will take him to Vienna, where he will attend the International Congress of Esperanto with 5,000 or so fellow devotees. "No matter whether we're black, red, brown or from outer space," he says, "we all believe that we should be able to go anyplace in this world and be understood."
He has donated 20 acres near Barstow, to the Esperanto Assn. of Orange County, which he helped found, for a school to be called Oazo de Esperanto (Esperanto Oasis). "If everyone learns one neutral, nonpolitical language," he says, "well, it may not bring about world peace immediately, but at least people will be able to understand what they're fighting about."