Just 24 hours after a troubled 3rd year law student at UC Hastings threatened a suicide leap off the school’s landmark tower, a high ranking diplomat from a “Rogue State”, made a brave appearance in the same potentially contentious academic environment. While not as visually dramatic as the hysterical student with her cellphone in hand being talked down by police negotiators from her 21st floor perch, the ground floor speech by the Syrian Ambassador (and fellow blogger) Imad Moustapha dealt with matters of a far more grave consequence than a student’s bizarrely botched love life.
Mustapha, made an eloquent spokesman for a nation that most Americans can’t fathom, find on a map, and perhaps hear only about when a Fox News correspondent mentions it’s candidacy for the Bush administration’s “Axis of Evil”. Just steps from the plaza named after the United Nations he spoke of some of the inner machinations of that body that left his countrymen a bit more than puzzled.
He spoke of a need for better relations between our two countries, and that the smaller Syria would prefer less bullying & bluster from the current administration. Unlike the reception that awaited Iran’s President Ahmadinejad at Columbia in New York, Imad Moustapaha found a far more colloquial reception at the state’s oldest law school.
He claimed he turned down speaking at the local Commonwealth Club in favor of appearing before law students, as a deference to his life before international diplomacy took him away from his job teaching computer science in Damascus.
Fluent in four languages, co-author of the UN-sponsored “Human Development Report in the Arab World”, Moustapha holds a Phd he earned in the UK, and was Dean of IT at the University of Damascus before accepting his Ambassadorship in 2004. Equally parts charming, witty and defensive of Syria’s political positions, the Ambassador relayed tales of his transistion from simple academic life driven by science to life on the diplomatic frontlines, and his small country’s larger perspective on world events and relationships. He brought to San Francisco his perspectives from 4000 year old Damascus, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and he referred to Cairo and Baghdad as baby cities , since they are only some 1000 years old.
Moustapha, standing under a rotating slide show of his country’s treasures and sites, gave brief introductory statements, but spent most of his hour with the students engaged in Q&A. Unfortunately, not that many questions came down the pipe because some of these were “big” questions, not easily answered in short soundbites when involving complex and sometimes confrontational geo-political issues.
More after the jump…