The Geopolitics Club at Clark Magnet High School had their second chat last week with Sergei Khrushchev, son of the late Nikita Khrushchev, who led the Soviet Union from 1955 to 1964.
The high school students were dressed up for the occasion in suits, ties and dresses as they spoke with Khrushchev in a video call using Skype.
The club approached cinema teacher Matt Stroup to ask if Stroup could connect Khrushchev on a conference earlier this year. Club president Grigori Grigoryan sent an email to Khrushchev’s university email account after learning he was a professor at Brown University, where he has worked since 1991.
One at a time, each club member sat before the computer and asked one question.
They covered the Cold War, the perspective that movies take on history and the future of Russia. There was a pause before Khrushchev answered each question, with his responses often lasting several minutes.
When one student asked if Russia would be more democratic or less democratic, Khrushchev said democracy cannot always be measured in the span of one generation.
“I believe it will be more democratic,” he said. “When will it happen? I don’t know.”
When asked who he thought really think won the Cold War, Khrushchev said that the U.S. won, but compared it to a man walking into a forest to find a dead bear, exclaiming, “I shot him because he is dead.”
Khrushchev added, “The U.S. won because the Soviet Union destroyed itself.”
After many of the students asked their questions, Grigoryan shared his excitement.
“It’s like talking to the daughters of President Obama,” Grigoryan said. “He is telling us his history, what his experience tells him.”
Also in on the conversation was school board President Joylene Wagner. She sat near the club members to listen and take notes, but with a few minutes left at the end, the students asked if she wanted to ask Khrushchev a question.
“I can’t imagine thinking that as a child growing up in the ’50s and ’60s in California that I would be speaking to the son of Nikita Khrushchev today,” she told him.
“Everything is possible,” he replied.
She thanked him for being an example to the students and for contributing to a culture of continuous learning.
“Your example of looking closely at questions and reserving judgment,” Wagner said. “Our students have many examples of quick judgments.”
She asked if Khrushchev had any advice for the students, some of whom will graduate this year.
He replied: “If anybody is successful in their life, this is because you are doing what you like to do, because each of us has something we can do better than others.”