Tuesday, August 18, 2009
These short comments were made at the residence of the US Ambassador to Algeria, David Pearce, in Algiers, Algeria. It was during a luncheon Ambassador Pearce hosted for the participants and families of the Youth Leadership Program for Algeria. In attendance were the 28 participants, their parents, embassy and consular staff, and representatives from Algeria's Ministry of Education.
"Since I arrived here in your country as a guest, I have learned what Valerie and the Ambassador already know: that the American and Algerian people share a great many common things. Both our countries were born out of a desire by our founding fathers to break free of the yoke of colonialism and imperialism. Our national identities have been shaped by that struggle for freedom and desire for independence.
In 1957, Senator John Kennedy publicly denounced French colonialism in Algeria and as president, he was the first to recognize a free and independent Algeria and to officially meet with your country's first president, Monsieur Ben Bella.
As I look out at the fresh young faces of the participants, I am reminded of the words of President Kennedy which hang in our library at the University of Nevada Reno. The torch now passes to you, a new generation of Algerians born in this century, the first generation of this new millennium and like your American counterparts in Reno, you too, have been tempered by war and disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, both our nations are proud of our ancient heritage and rich history, and unwilling to watch the slow undoing of those democratic principles to which both our countries and people have always been committed to , and remain committed to today, at home and around the world.
Kennedy's words electrified the Afro-Arab world and the Muslim people of Algeria long remembered his courageous words that helped carry them through the "darkest period" of their armed struggle against the French. Now, that torch has been passed to you, the next generation, to light the way and lead our countries into the future. In closing I wish to read a passage from the Al Baqarah in the Koran:
"Those that gave their wealth for the cause of God can be compared to a grain of corn which brings forth seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains."
(Original Arabic quote was read by an interpreter, Houda Bouhidel)
Each of you here today is like that grain of corn, a seed of peace, in whom the dreams of both of our countries rests. May Allah bless our joint venture so that each seed of peace we plant here and in America yield a hundred years of peace and friendship between our two countries."
Monday, August 17, 2009
(The following appeared in the July 2009 issue of Positively Northern Nevada with Jennifer Burton http://www.positivelynorthernnevada.com/)
If you could tell 25 students from North Africa something about the America, what would it be? Ten local high school students and about a dozen host families will have that chance when 25 Algerian high school students arrive in Reno for a three week conference on leadership and media later this month.
Algeria is 99 percent Muslim and the students, who speak French, English and Arabic, will have a chance to share their their culture with ours and vice versa.
“I was impressed by their level of English and comprehension and their grasp of pretty complicated concepts of American History,” said Joaquin Roces who reviewed the essays the students wrote to be considered for the program.
Roces, who is with the Northern Nevada International Center, left for Algeria last week to meet the students and will bring them to Reno at the end of July. Once here, they’ll participate in the Algerian Youth Leadership conference, which is sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
In addition to the Algerian students, ten local high school students will also participate in the program. “I think it’s going to be a very interesting dynamic in exchange between the American students and the Algerian students,” Roces added.
Each Algerian student had to write an essay in English to be considered for the program. One 17 year old boy says in his essay that he looks forward to exchanging ideas and learning about America. He also likes soccer and watches NBA basketball, which he calls “spectacular.” Another 17 year old is excited about the chance to meet people and learn to communicate across cultures.
The students will learn about media and how it fits into society, and each will help produce a three minute mini-documentary. Local families who signed up to host the students will get a chance to learn about Algeria and meet kids who they might not otherwise come in contact with. Be sure to check back on PNN for more about the program after they arrive in Reno.