Oak Trees of Freedom

My interest in history was born in an Oberursel Bierstube in the 1970’s. Among my memories is the Horseshoe, a parable about living through massive political change, described by a 50 year old German man. This man had lived through 4 completely different forms of government: monarchy, failed democracy (Weimar), facism, and a successful democracy.

The Old Man said “You Americans live on an isolated island, we live in a crowded neighborhood. On islands you can value ideals, in crowded neighborhoods we value stability.”

The parable teaches that the chasm created by massive political change is a  battlefield won by the most vile, greedy, depraved forces of mankind. The good people wait for someone else to do the right thing, while the bad people act to steal the spoils of a lawless society.


His message to America is don’t mess with toppling governments unless you are committed to 40 years of economic, political and military investment.

His lecture ended on surprisingly happy note. He lifted his beer and said “But you did it right in West Germany for the past 30 years, thank you”. I was just 16 and it was the first “Prost!” of my life.


A decade later, working in Japan and South Korea, I saw validations of the Horseshoe theory.

All these distant memories were rekindled in Romania where the forces for deep, fundamental structural changes are at work. So asked Paul Muresan, a young Romanian artist from Bistrita, to help me translate this message into art form that Romanians might identify with. Here is the Horseshoe parable.


It is always is cultural reform that drives political reform. New values and principles that take a couple generations to grow. I call these the Oak Trees of Freedom.   

In Romania, these new values and principles are so counter-cultural to communism and monarchical empires, they cannot be translated into words. So we are creating 11 short animations to explain the values that will lift our country from poverty to prosperity.

Now I am the old man, Paul is the young listener. It is joy to pass along what a wise old man gave to me 40 years ago.   

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