Sen. Joe Lieberman told Quinnipiac students on Monday to pay attention and take an active role in the political events occurring in the Middle East.
“Study Arabic,” Lieberman said. “Study Islam. Go there and try to be involved in what’s happening. Obviously not everyone can do that, but follow from here what’s happening and make sure your government is supportive and doesn’t turn away from an historic change in a moment of opportunity.”
Lieberman spoke about his trip to Tunisia and Egypt during his lecture in Mancheski Seminar Room.
“These are transforming events in history, and they’re going to affect your life whether you want them to or not,” Lieberman said.
In Tunisia he met with human rights groups and young leaders of the revolution.
“One of them said to us, ‘Senators, we really have a special request of you. There is one American more than any other that we would love to visit Tunisia,’” Lieberman explained.
He said his first guess was President Obama. However, Mancheski filled with laughter as he said “Mark Zuckerberg,” creator of Facebook.
“American ingenuity provided them with the weapons that they used in their peaceful revolution against their authoritarian governments,” Lieberman said. “The weapons were Facebook and Twitter, etc.”
Nineteen Quinnipiac students studied in Egypt for two weeks during winter break as part of their QU301 Global Community Seminar with Professor Janet Bahgat. The students safely returned home just before the revolution sparked chaos all across Egypt.
“What you have been doing here in your class strikes me,” Lieberman said. “It is remarkably consistent with this moment of history and transformational change in the Arab world.”
Lieberman compared the revolutions in the Middle East to the American Revolution, saying the U.S. should help these countries have a successful transition. He explained the different ways the U.S. may aid Egypt and Tunisia, including helping to monitor their elections and investing in their economies.
“I thought it was really interesting to learn about how the U.S. can contribute to what is going on in Egypt such as helping out with the election and making sure they run smoothly and accurately,” junior Daniela Gomez said.
Lieberman said he was working with Senator John McCain from Arizona on legislation to forgive Egypt’s debt due to its transition to democracy.
President John Lahey spoke highly of Lieberman and connected his career to the QU seminar series.
“Senator Lieberman has lived a life on the international stage, a national stage, and a local stage,” Lahey said. “I have enormous respect for Senator Lieberman, one of the most thoughtful political leaders of our time, and without question more integrity than any political leader ever. He’s widely recognized for that in this country and around the world.”
Lieberman encouraged students to participate in exchange programs between the United States and Middle Eastern countries.
“Because of the age of the revolutionaries, I think you may be our most important ambassadors,” Lieberman said. “In doing so you will put yourselves in the path of history, and in your own individual way you will assist in turning history in a good direction.”