McAvoy Layne: Hot Shot the robot is one cool customer |

McAvoy Layne: Hot Shot the robot is one cool customer

William Fulbright started something big when he founded a scholarship program offering merit-based grants for an international exchange of students. Back in 1946, Fulbright Scholars from 160 countries were the best and the brightest, and they are the best and the brightest today.

Their mission is to advance mutual understanding; a thing sorely needed in our fractious society, and these kids are up to the task.

Thanks to an ardent staff at University of Nevada, Reno’s International Center, Lake Tahoe has become a gateway to the United States for 60 of these super scholars before they fan out across our great land to pursue master’s degree and Ph.D. studies.

One young man I spoke to is on his way to Harvard to advance neoteric methods of brain imaging (I gave him my card).

Prior to dinner at the Kings Beach Community Center, a dozen of these bright kids jumped excitedly into the refreshing waters of Lake Tahoe, and then jumped out with an amusing amount of zeal.

This year, we had the pleasure of being joined by Hot Shot the robot, who entertained us with uncanny face recognition and geniality. I asked him to tell me a story and he replied, “Oh, no, Mr. Twain, you can tell a story much better than I can.”

I offered to buy him a drink, and for a moment he was stuck for an answer. Apparently alcohol has a deleterious effect on Hot Shot, which makes him seem even more human, actually. One daring female Fulbrighter gave Hot Shot a hug and his ears turned red. I figure in another year Hot Shot will have memorized all of Mark Twain’s works and I will be out of a job.

Following dinner, I had the distinct honor of welcoming this year’s Fulbrighters to our shores as the Ghost of Mark Twain, and what an honor it was. Over the years, more than 50 Fulbright Scholars have won Nobel Prizes, and more than 80 have won Pulitzer Prizes. So, I imagined one future Nobel laureate and one future Pulitzer laureate were sitting amongst us, and I thanked them in advance for their contributions to society.

I wish more Americans could meet these Fulbright kids and see the light in their eyes and the smiles on their faces. They are living proof that what Mark Twain told us is true, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

I would like to shake William Fulbright’s hand, he must have been quite a guy. I did get to shake the hand of Dr. Carina Black, Mike Graf and International Center staff members, who orchestrate the memorable Tahoe activities that keep fertile Fulbright minds engaged during their brief visit here. Our Gateway Orientation provides exposure to American culture, including our academic, financial, and legal systems.

A Fulbright question I will long remember and hold dear is, “Mr. Twain, can I just hang here at Tahoe with you and take my courses online?”

“Sorry, son, you’ve got a world to save.”

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User