John J. Karakash, who died March 22 in Bethlehem, wrote three dozen columns for The Morning Call opinion pages beginning in February 1998. Dr. Karakash, who was professor and dean of engineering at Lehigh University, was a first-generation American who felt an obligation to pay back the country that had given him so much. He encouraged every person, regardless of their stations, to strive to improve life. "There's a Bill of Rights," he often said. "What about a Bill of Responsibilities?" The following column was completed by Dr. Karakash just prior to his death.
People who knew my father believe his philosophy was formed during his imprisonment. After his release, he grew to admire U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for his statesmanship and for forming the League of Nations to try to transform a quarrelsome world into a community at peace. Wilson had initiated a population exchange between the Greeks in the Anatolian portion of Turkey and the Turks in the Greek province of Thrace, averting ethnic warfare. And, he had tried but failed to mitigate the harsh peace terms meted out to Germany by Britain and France, which helped bring Hitler to power in Germany in 1933.
My father was confident that American idealism would, in time, prevail over the colonial policies of Europe. Not until I had lived some years in my new home, however, did I realize that my father knew far more about America than I had suspected. When, in 1953, I saw my father for the last time, he was moved by the statesmanship that had inspired America to forgive Germany and Japan and launch the Marshall Plan to rebuild countries devastated by World War II, including friends and former foes. He was also thrilled that the U.S. had led the worldwide effort to establish the United Nations and he believed this thwarted Soviet plans to enslave all of Europe.