Former Wyoming senator remembers Gorbachev

By Susann Robbins
Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, right, and his translator, Pavel Palazchenko, casually discuss global issues with former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, left, during Gorbachev's visit to UW on Oct. 14. Photo by Susann Robbins.

LARAMIE—A former Wyoming Republican senator said he didn't need to prepare for his Q&A session Oct. 14 with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev at the University of Wyoming because the two already had met five times.

Alan Simpson said the plan for the Q&A session was the two would just talk about some of the topics they used to talk about and keep it interesting and conversational.

Simpson met President Gorbachev for the first time in 1987 on a 10-day visit to Moscow when he met with Soviet leadership members, Simpson recalled.

He said he thought Gorbachev's visit to Laramie would influence students.

"I think they'll be fascinated by a man, whether you like him or not, who changed the course of history," Simpson said. "If a student doesn't understand that, they shouldn't be in school."

Previously, Simpson said he has personally conducted similar sessions at UW with former President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Jim Baker, former U.S. secretary of state.

"President Gorbachev opened the eyes of the world with his policies of glasnost and perestroika; these were unknown things in the Soviet Union," Simpson said. "He knew that his country had to come forward, and so he brought them forward. Anyone that is a leader has to take a lot of crap, and if you haven't taken any, then you are not a leader, you are just a regular pull-along guy. President Gorbachev was a leader to the point that when he ran for president in his country, he got an unprecedented percentage of votes," Simpson noted.