Striped pants and a dispatch case are not absolute necessities for diplomatic success. U.S. Olympic Champion Mal Whitfield of Los Angeles has just proved this in a five-month, 100,000-mile international junket arranged by the State Department. Good-will Ambassador Whitfield skipped protocol, stripped down to his shorts, laced on a battered old pair of track shoes and, in bare legs, made thousands of friends for the U.S. in such places as Britain, Italy, Greece, India, Iran and Africa.
Whitfield's biggest triumphs occurred where dark skins predominate, and one of his most successful missions was a two-day tour of Northern Rhodesia during which he shook hands with British officials and natives, visited a copper mine and made a speech or two.
His good-will program was a simple one. Mal began with a 20-minute lecture on the regimen of an athlete. "Diet is extremely important; it is essential to eat lots of meat. Don't try to get energy from glucose—honey is just as good and cheaper." Then the Olympic trackman called for volunteers to "come on down here and work out with me a bit." A number of onlookers immediately stripped down, and Mal led them through 40 minutes of calisthenics, "to get you boys in shape."
The volunteers sweated heroically through the exercises and then were treated to the dream of every local athlete, a chance to run against Olympic Star Whitfield. First they did a couple of warm-up quarter-mile laps around the track and then one rousing, all-out 440 in which Mal easily outran everybody. Grunted one exhausted African: "Man, they make those natives in America like Hollywood cars—fast!"
February 7, 1955
Throughout his tour Whitfield plugged good will through sports. "I guess a sports ambassador like me can make you people feel better about the United States and the American people and know us better." To discouraged and poverty-stricken Rhodesian athletes the diplomat in short pants offered some comfort: "I'm sure that once these boys get better equipment, better training, they'll rank high in the world of sports. I'd like to come back and help that happen." To Africans, no offer, whether in striped pants or not, could have been a better sign of U.S. friendship.
Sightseer Whitfield stops at small village to watch two girls grind grain, using primitive mortar-and-pestle method.
Envoy extraordinary Whitfield leads young admirer in exercises at Jeanes Teachers College in Northern Rhodesia.
Smelling salts are presented by the Olympic runner to native who crossed finish line last in the quarter-mile race.
Starting techniques are subject for a demonstration-lecture at the African secondary school near the capital city of Lusaka. The track star cautioned his audiences: "Championship form is mainly a matter of hard training and the right coaching."
Battered track shoes are awarded to Iran Mwanza as Whitfield completes his tour. Mwanza received the spikes for finishing first among the natives in a quarter-mile race at Jeanes College. Like most of his countrymen he has always run barefoot.