Michale: Ancestor of Accent

At the time, Michale didn’t know it, but she was laying the groundwork for more than just her 1986 trip with Young Storytellers. Eventually, Michale’s workshops on storytelling and citizen diplomacy inspired a group of teachers to found Accent on Understanding, a 501(c)(3)-designated organization in Washington that facilitated teacher and student exchanges between the United States and the nations that made up the Soviet Union .

Accent, founded in 1987, facilitated exchanges like Michale’s 1986 trip long after Michale moved on to other storytelling-related work — Accent worked into the early 2000s. Accent also focused on two-way exchanges, taking special care to make sure they helped host delegations from the nations that made up the Soviet Union, as well as send delegations there. Accent had a particular focus on connecting students and teachers — one of their core goals was to make sure students had a better understanding of their place as global citizens, while Michale focused on storytelling and training students as citizen diplomats.

Ultimately, Accent’s work and Michale’s work were parallel in many ways, striving toward the same goal of peace, but their methods of accomplishing this goal took different forms. Michale seemed to have a more calculated and diplomatic approach: she focused on choosing children carefully, selecting those that were suited to be the best representatives of America. She would train them in diplomatic tactics and provide sessions to teach them how to effectively connect with Soviets. On the other hand, Accent seemed to be much more organic, allowing a less calculated, more cultural approach to diplomacy. That said, it would be a stretch to say that these approaches were in direct opposition to one another. Both approaches focused on children and schools as a breeding ground for peace, and both had a vision for long-lasting peace beyond the end of the Cold War.