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Children’s Hopes of Presenting Letters to Reagan and Gorbachev Dashed

December 9, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Dozens of children hoping to present letters of peace to President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev received word from the White House Wednesday that such a meeting was unlikely.

Eleven children from the United States, Poland, Finland, West Germany, Japan, Afghanistan and Switzerland met for nearly an hour at the Old Executive Office Building with the White House’s Linus Kojelis.

The children had asked to meet with the superpower leaders to present 1,000 of 230,000 letters written in the past two years by children from 31 countries. Christo, the artist known for wrapping large buildings and bridges, had wrapped the 1,000 letters for the children.

Kojelis indicated that Reagan and Gorbachev’s busy schedule would not permit a meeting, said one of the children.

″We wanted to meet with Reagan and Gorbachev, but with their schedule it’s not possible,″ said Ben Black, 15, of Washington. ″There are so many other groups that want to see them.″

Elsewhere, 38 children who participated in a Children’s Summit to coincide with the U.S.-Soviet summit held a multilingual news conference to deliver their message on peace.

″We want to be so old like Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev,″ said Claudia Thorun of Hamburg, West Germany.

The 13-year-old youngster, who spoke in English and translated for her German friends, stood before a handmade banner designed like a postcard. The banner asked the leaders, in English and Russian, to ″please meet us.″ It was simply signed, ″the children.″

The banner also carried a stamp for Peace Bird, the Hamburg, West Germany, group that organized the writing campaign.

In the middle of that group’s news conference, which was conducted without adult supervision, a group of Afghans brought in four children they said were wounded in fighting with the Soviet Union.

Pointing to the injured children, Amar Agbar said, ″If you do not sign contracts about this, this is going to continue going on.″

Fearful that Agbar’s statement had been too political, the children associated with Peace Bird emphasized that their efforts were for world peace, and not a question of politics.

″Reagan and Gorbachev have control of our future and we want them to do it right,″ said Black.

The children read from two of the letters, including one from Matt Lindsay of Deerfield, Mass.

″Dear President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, Please get to be better friends,″ said Lindsay’s letter. ″Stop making weapons. We don’t want to be in a nuclear war. All it does is kill thousands of innocent people.″

Sarah Haberman of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, wrote: ″I want a chance to live my life.″

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