It was in 2002, 10 years’ anniversary of the International University in Moscow. President Gorbachev was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. At the ceremony I was asked to speak on behalf of the Alumni. I thanked Mr Gorbachev for opening up the Soviet Union, letting us be free, for the opportunity to learn from the best western professors in and outside of Russia. I also thought that it would be cool to give him as a gift my car’s license plate I used when I was at business school in New Hampshire, USA. The license plate said ‘CCCP. Live Free, Or Die’. To get this license plate was Alastair Bor’s idea, my roommate and friend in business school. Soviet ice hockey players had CCCP (USSR) written on their helmets, many Americans knew exactly what it meant.
And now comes the story why I’m saying all this. Right after the official part of this event there was a reception which took place in a cafe area at the dorm. Mr Gorbachev was there and we, alumni, and a few students asked Mr Gorbachev to have a drink with us. Suddenly he became very serious. He asked for a glass of cognac and paused for almost a minute. There were about 20 of us and we all became silent expecting the words of wisdom on how we should live our lives from the man who had changed history of the mankind.
His words I can still hear very well in my head. They were not about politics, career, achievement… He said: “You don’t know it yet, but the most important thing in your life is … LOVE.” He downed his cognac in one fast move, silently turned away and left. Few years before Mr Gorbachev’s wife passed away of cancer. Now he joined her.
Ten years later I got Mr Gorbachev to sign my second license plate. I will show it to my children and will tell them this story about true love.
Rest In Piece, Mr President. I’m not in Russia and couldn’t come to the funeral but a lot of good people did.