Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ~Nelson Mandela
My last post was about the idea of developing a School of Global Leadership at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Basically I proposed that it was time for the Middle East, the crucible for much of the global conflict over the past several decades, to begin to focus on the development of global leaders whose goal is help guide the world towards greater peace and prosperity. We have schools of engineering, medicine, nursing, fine arts, computing, design and many other important occupations. Why not a School of Leadership? And why not at AUB, the oldest and longest running modern university in the Middle East? And why not Lebanon?
This blog has created a lot of email traffic and controversy, with many of the comments dealing with the question of why Beirut? And why Lebanon? Most people couldn’t see the logic of the American University of Beirut as the location for a School of Global Leadership, mentioning much more stable cities where top-notch American Universities are setting up brand new branch campuses. The Qatar Foundation’s Education City in Doha was suggested several times, since a number of American universities have set up branch campuses, including the Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, the Weil-Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M’s College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, and most recently, Georgetown University’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service. And all the buildings and facilities are modern and new.
And of course there were numerous mentions of Dubai as one of the most modern and progressive cities in the Middle East with its ultra-modern Dubai Media City where numerous American universities have established branches, including Harvard Medical School, George Mason University, Michigan State, Boston University Dental School and others.
So why AUB? And why Lebanon?
There are numerous reasons why AUB, and Lebanon, is the best place to establish a School of Global Leadership in the Middle East.
- AUB has 145 years of history, a global brand, and more importantly 80+ thousand alumni, many of whom are spread around the globe yet feel strongly and positively about AUB. Supportive alumni are what make many of the American universities solid and sustainable enterprises.
- The Lebanese are enterprising, entrepreneurial people; it’s in their DNA. After all they were the original Phoenician traders who developed the rules of modern commerce, not to mention the written alphabet. They are creative, energetic and motivated and if the Lebanese people decided to support a School of Global Leadership at AUB, it would happen.
- Sure, Beirut is not the most stable city in the Middle East and it is still fundamentally an occupied country with the totalitarian regime of Syria trying to subtly annex the country. But the spirit of the Lebanese, combined with their global relationships have shown incredible resilience and determination in rebuilding their city, several times. With the current mood within Syria I predict the days of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon are numbered.
- Beirut is by far more sustainable than Doha, Qatar or Dubai, or the other “modern” Middle Eastern cities which are essentially fake, with no sustainable commerce or industry and simply propped up by the sheiks and their oil money. With the majority of the population of these countries composed of foreign workers and domestics, without the largesse of the rulers the entire house of cards would quickly collapse. Beirut, on the other hand, has been the center of trade and commerce in the Middle East for thousands of years. It works and has always worked, occupied or free!
- Lebanon is the most tolerant and accepting of diverse cultures and ideas than any other Middle Eastern country. A School of Global Leadership could have a good chance for success in the Lebanese culture. Not so any of the other Middle Eastern locations, where the current American university branches exist at the pleasure of the rulers and for their own personal branding. At the present having American universities in their countries suits the purposes of the sheiks and kings, making them appear to be modern global citizens. But as soon as challenges to the ruling status quo begin to happen, as they will when any gathering of students have the opportunity to discuss global issues of justice and humanity, academic freedom will definitely suffer. And then of course there are the Sharia police to help keep everything under control.
Right now I can see only one problem with the idea of establishing a School of Global Leadership at AUB. It’s not lack of curriculum, it’s not lack of funding, it’s not lack of ability to attract distinguished faculty and staff. It’s the current AUB leadership. Are they willing to tackle this opportunity (disguised as a challenge) and use their history and moral imperative as the oldest modern university in the Middle East to take a stand for sane and rational leadership in a region in desperate need? Or will they continue on their present course of turning out well-educated young men and women? Either way AUB will win, it’s just the size of the game they choose to play in.
Tight Lines . . .
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