In 1992, I accepted an invitation to share my Great Wall adventure with eight hundred professional engineers in Houston, Texas.
Before my presentation---luncheon guests, all seated in the Ritz Carleton’s largest ballroom, were treated to a visual presentation, as more than two thousand photos of the Great Wall flashed continuously
across the room’s multiple screens, officially documenting my seven-month journey. Quite appropriately, these Great Wall images were accompanied by authentic Chinese music.
Following my presentation, I invited audience members to ask questions. One by one--engineers from every state in America stepped forward to ask a variety of questions about my journey, such as: What I ate, what I enjoyed most,
who I met, the language barrier, even questions about Chinese spiders and snakes.
Just when I thought I had answered every question, an attractive gentleman--
probably mid-forties-- walked to a microphone near the back of the ballroom. Smiling, he addressed me:
“Honey, I found your presentation quite
impressive. You are a great speaker and I really enjoyed the photographs but----I have a major concern.” Surprised and not knowing what to expect, I held my breath.
“How could you have traveled that wall in 1990? In 1987, in a famous speech that was broadcast to the world, President Ronald Reagan ordered Gorbachev to tear down that Wall and-- he did!” At that moment, had a
pin dropped, it would have sounded like a crow bar hitting the floor. Barely breathing, the audience waited for my response.
Wearing my very-best beauty
queen smile, I leaned into the microphone and, in true southern style, delivered these words: “Honey, I’m really glad you enjoyed the slide show and I truly appreciate your concern and attention-to-detail.
Unfortunately, my dear, you are talking about the wrong wall in the wrong country. Bless you heart, Honey, you are talking about the Berlin Wall--in Germany”!!!! As the room echoed with thunderous
applause, the well-dressed gentleman--looking like a hound dog with his tail between his legs-- scurried out of the Ballroom.
The following year, the National
Engineers Association sent me a Christmas card. The association's president added a postscript:
“I thought you’d like to know--- the engineer
who appeared “geographically challenged” after your Great Wall Presentation, resigned from our association.”
The president added: “It is
better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt."