A Visit from Gorbachev: Here's a Chance to Show Him Our Best

updated 03/03/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/03/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

So he's coming to dinner. And lunch. And plenty more. Sometime later this year President Reagan will strike up Ruffles and Flourishes for the first visit to the U.S. of Soviet Communist Party Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev. The Russian leader, who will probably be accompanied by his wife, Raisa, will devote his official time to talks with the President, and if all goes as expected, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. will have taken a small step toward arms control.

But that's the official part. When President Reagan issued his invitation to Gorbachev last November, he said that he wanted to show his guests something of what America was like; he had in mind the nation's spirit, its grandeur, its technological and cultural achievements. The White House has said that "what Gorbachev visits will reflect his own wishes." Some reports have speculated that Beverly Hills and California's Silicon Valley could be tucked into the itinerary. Nancy Reagan has suggested that the Gorbachevs be persuaded to "drop into a Safeway," and the President will probably want them to see Dixon, Ill., his hometown.

Before the schedule gets engraved in stone, we want to put in our two cents by offering Gorbachev a PEOPLE Readers' Guide to the Best of America. Surely ordinary citizens have at least as good a notion of what is truly significant about America as do White House planners—not to mention the Soviets. Hence our invitation: Now you can tell Gorbachev where to go—in the nicest way possible, of course.

Gorbachev will be the fourth Soviet leader to come to the U.S. In 1959 feisty Nikita Khrushchev visited President Eisenhower in Washington, saw New York from the top of the Empire State Building, watched the filming of Can-Can in Hollywood, toured a farm and ate his first hot dog in Iowa. The last top Soviet chief to come to the U.S. was Leonid Brezhnev, in 1973. Richard Nixon managed to lighten up the normally dour-faced Leonid by introducing him to several movie stars at Nixon's San Clemente spread in California.

More than any of his predecessors, Gorbachev has demonstrated that he knows how to press the flesh with the common folk, and the assumption is that he will be reasonably open-minded and curious about what America has to show him.

What should he see? Your invitation is on the card facing this page. All you need do is tear out the card and mail it, telling us where or whom the Soviet leader ought to visit and why. The possibilities are as diverse as the country itself, but we urge you to consider ideas that Gorbachev's staff is not likely to find in a typical tourist guide. Perhaps he should attend a Down East clambake, or spend a day on a small farm (or a big one), or take in a major sports event, or sail down the Mississippi or admire that lovely, hidden waterfall you know about.

Maybe he ought to have a chat with that special person in your town—or anywhere in the U.S.—who exemplifies the American character. Should he visit your homey general store or your church? The prettiest country road in your state? How about asking him and Raisa to dinner or to a backyard barbecue? Would he enjoy attending your high school graduation ceremonies? A wedding? A visit to a surefire catfish hole?

Send in your replies by March 17. We'll sort them out and publish a series of articles based on the results. Be sure to keep the season in mind; as of last week, the White House was pressing for a summertime visit, and the Soviets were dickering for September. And don't forget to write your name and address on the invitation. You pay the 22-cent postage and—who knows?—maybe the leader of the Soviet Union and his wife will pay you a call.

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