SALEM — City Councilor Joe O’Keefe had his diplomatic hat on this week.
The veteran councilor and former state fire marshal served as host to three visiting dignitaries from Pakistan — a judge, a police chief and a human resources director.
For the past 10 days, O’Keefe has been our very own Hillary Rodham Clinton.
He led the distinguished group over to Salem State University, where President Patricia Meservey spent a day with them. He brought them to City Hall to meet Mayor Kim Driscoll, who also spent a long time with the visitors. In fact, it was Driscoll who agreed to serve as a host for this international exchange sponsored by the Massachusetts Municipal Association and funded by the U.S. State Department.
The guests went to the new Salem courthouse, where they saw the judge’s quarters and a trial in progress. They took a ride around Salem Harbor in the harbormaster’s boat. They visited the schools with School Committee members Janet Crane and Brendan Walsh. And they went to the police headquarters for a sit-down with Chief Paul Tucker and a ride-along with Sgt. Harry Rocheville and Sgt. Dennis King.
They ate at Passage to India — more than once — and Flying Saucer Pizza, and bought Salem witch T-shirts, which they courageously wore around town.
Everywhere they went, people were impressed with the friendliness of the visitors from Pakistan, their perfect command of English and their fascination with America.
“They were lovely people,” O’Keefe said.
When they left the police station, one of the visitors turned to Tucker and said: “I hope we have improved the American people’s vision of what the Pakistani people are. We are not what is portrayed in the media.”
Pity the poor saxophone player.
He’s a nice guy, everyone says, and really means well. It’s just that he’ll never be confused with John Coltrane.