I was first exposed to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict when I was evacuated out of Beirut where I was a boarding student at the American School in June 1967. I came back to graduate the next year and later did a year at the American University of Beirut, beginning in what came to be known as Black September. My parents were educators and I have spent my career in higher education in the U.S. Education has made a big difference in my life, as well as the places and people with whom I shared it.
I have also been privileged to serve as a trustee of the Lebanese American University in Beirut and now as a board member for the Leonard Education Organization (LE•O). On my trips to Lebanon I have frequently spent my free time meeting with students, including working with Unite Lebanon Youth Project (a LE•O partner) and AMIDEAST, to visit Palestinian students and their teachers, talking about the opportunities and realities of studying in the U.S. I have visited UNRWA schools outside of Beirut and Tripoli and met with students and faculty there. There is great interest in the potential of scholarships for study abroad. Their energy and drive is exceptional. Their academic prowess is what gives them the opportunity, that and the faculty and parents who believe in them and supported them for so long. Their discipline and engagement make them an added blessing for the campuses where they enroll. Often these are the first Palestinian students the American college students have ever met. Late night conversation, friendships, shared service trips, internships, and collaborative research projects all make for a much deeper understanding and communication between these future citizens and leaders of our globe.
There are surely many people in a desperate situation deserving of a break. Not only have the Palestinians suffered a long time, theirs is the collective result of massive failures of basic fairness and commitments by the West in deference to their dispossession and ongoing occupation. Throughout this experience the Palestinian society has valued education and family commitment and thus these students represent the hopes of many—their parents, their siblings, their extended family, and their neighbors. We can give them no greater gift than to help them gain an education and the networking and international exposures that can be transformative in their adult lives. They will invest themselves as well, and I know that it is a worthy means of improving the lives of everyone on this tormented globe that we share. For these reasons I am pleased to assist the work of LE•O. My greatest reward is the students’ joy at graduation and the subsequent realization of opportunities, unavailable before their educational experience.
Please join us…
Vice President and Treasurer