In a cell in Beirut, Lebanon, two Americans were held hostage
and chained to a wall.
In the same cell, two French hostages were in the identical
position, but the Frenchmen understood their captivity situation
far better than the Americans.
“The French had a much better relationship with the guards,”
said Tom Sutherland, an American who remained a hostage in Beirut
for six and a half years.
“I learned that rather than be confrontational, if you talk to
the guards and treat them as human beings you are much more likely
to get information from them,” he said in a speech presented by the
newly formed Northern Colorado United Nations Association on campus
Sutherland continued by comparing the Frenchmen’s attitude
toward the guards with the United Nations’ approach to
Sutherland, who taught at CSU for 25 years and still lives in
the Fort Collins area, was kidnapped on June 5, 1983, in Beirut
during his employment as dean of agriculture at the American
University of Beirut.
During his presentation, Sutherland emphasized the importance of
the United Nations in his release from captivity and spoke to
approximately 50 people, gathered in an Engineering Building
lecture hall, about the necessity of maintaining the United Nations
for future generations.
“It was the U.N., ultimately, that did resolve our hostage
crisis,” Sutherland said. “When we were in captivity the terrorists
wanted nothing to do with the U.S. They went right to the U.N.”
Sutherland expressed his appreciation for Giandomenico Pico, the
U.N. leader in charge of Iraq and Iran, who negotiated with the
Iranian government for the release of the American hostages when
the United States was publicly maintaining a policy of
“Pico was instructed to go to a certain place and wait, then
he’d be blindfolded and taken to a building and they would take his
blindfold off, but they would all have hoods over their heads –
that’s how they did the talks,” Sutherland said.
Pico’s dialogues with Iran ultimately lead to Sutherland’s
release from captivity on Nov. 18, 1991.
During the speech audience members nodded and offered words of
approval as Sutherland expressed the need for a United Nations role
in international relations.
“Somehow we have to persuade big countries to listen to the
U.N.,” Sutherland said. “It seems like when you have a big
powerhouse like the United States, they don’t want to let any of
their control go.”
Norma Glad, an audience member and Fort Collins resident, said
that the United Nations’ role in Sutherland’s release remains an
excellent example of what can be accomplished without violence.
“He’s a man who’s been there. I like the way he put his speech
together and I agree with him in so many ways,” Glad said. “I want
peace; I want to be a part of the solution.”
Sutherland also spoke of the need for different cultures to
accumulate mutual respect and to learn other languages as a
“Our problem is that we don’t understand the rest of the world
near well enough,” Sutherland said.
Norman Illsley, Fort Collins resident who plans to join NCUNA,
“If we can promote people working with people rather than
institutions working with institutions, then we can start solving
the problems of people who make up the institutions,” Illsley said.
“Essentially it is starting from the ground up.”
As a new organization, NCUNA is building membership and
promoting the role of the United Nations across Northern Colorado.
Program committee coordinator Eleanor Dwight said Sutherland’s
situation remains a crucial example of the need for an
international peace forum.
“I think he reinforced the connection and the need for the U.N.
to maintain diplomatic relations, and help in things such as his
release,” she said.
Following the presentation, Dwight added that the median age at
the speech was older than she hopes it will be in the future.
“We would really love to have more students come join us,” she