David Haydon" />
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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Speakers continue despite low budgets

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, spoke to UH students about democracy in the Middle East on Tuesday, in a talk entitled “God, Man and the Ballot Box in the Middle East.”

This was rare because Gerecht spoke to UH students before his main appearance for the non-profit World Affairs Council of Houston, who sponsored his talk.

Gerecht, a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, summarized the situation in the Middle East as an “intellectual pincer movement.”

Referencing Iran and other areas, he reluctantly used the Western concept of left and right to describe what he called a serious democratic ethic with individualistic growth, versus a strong Islamic sense of justice and rebellion, respectively.

“These two have come together and produced a sort of volcanic state,” he said.

Gerecht also offered predictions for the future of democracy in areas like Egypt.

“I would suspect that if Egypt goes democratic, you will have a serious debate in the Egyptian parliament on recognizing the peace treaty in Israel,” he said.

“The effect of that would be profound. But there‘s no guarantee that it will be the outcome.”

Chair of the political science department Greg Weiher and political science professor Ryan Kennedy, who helped organize the event, were present at the talk.

“This is the second speaker that the World Affairs Council has sponsored to the University of Houston recently,” Kennedy said.

“We made contact with them about more speakers, and they have been nice enough to present us with possibilities. I knew that budgets would be tight, and it would be difficult for departments to get people to come and talk.”

Essentially, the grace of non-profit groups and professors landed UH a quality speaker, during state spending cuts that should make such things difficult if not close to impossible.

In addition, the lesser-known UH minors, such as the National Securities Studies which Weiher directs, gain attention when relevant speakers appear.

“That’s another minor where we’re trying to encourage students from all majors … if they have an interest in doing the kind of stuff that our speaker does,” Kennedy said.

Simply put, we need to increase speakers like Gerecht on campus. Forget about University prestige and Tier One status; this was an opportunity directly for students, who heard professional in formation firsthand and had the rare chance to ask questions immediately afterward.

With modern access to printed media, television and online news at an unprecedented level, who doesn’t have unanswered questions?

News information is akin to well-filtered coffee these days; it’s brewed over and over through multiple pots and with varying levels of potency.

Then consider 12-15 hour class schedules and part time jobs. It’s amazing that students keep up to date with frivolous entertainment news, let alone what’s going on in the Middle East.

Obviously Gerecht is not the sole voice of the Middle East, but he is one of several voices who students and people in general obtain information from, as Weiher pointed out.

“These are people who make opinion,” Weiher said. “And sometimes I think they learn from the students as well.”

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