Thursday, November 09, 2006

Me in Kansas City, Oxford International Review

Program helps build bridges

Middle Eastern scholars visit Kansas City and meet local students.

By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS
The Kansas City Star
FRED BLOCHER | The Kansas City Star
Mohammed Saeed Al-Mesmari (left) of the United Arab Emirates was among the group of students who on Thursday visited the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.

In the courtyard at the base of the Liberty Memorial, young Middle Eastern scholars visiting Kansas City this week mingled with students from William Jewell College.

They chatted about politics, religion, college studies and the fall leaves that fell in the day’s mild breeze.

The students were brought together by Oxford International Review through an exchange effort designed in part to dispel misconceptions Americans have about Middle Eastern cultures and vice versa.

“Despite some cultural differences, we all are members of the human family,” said James Luce, 21 and a junior studying political science at Jewell.

While in Kansas City, the students from the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Lebanon will visit a mosque and a Baptist church and observe the election process by canvassing with candidates and stopping at the polls.

William Jewell is a partner with Oxford International Review in the effort and is housing the six visitors. Oxford International Review, an international affairs journal, is produced annually by the world’s top student scholars. The visitors had lunch Thursday with Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of the 34th U.S. president, and toured the memorial.

“Welcome to Kansas City,” Eisenhower said. “I want you to understand what it means to be an American in the Midwest. The Midwest is a wonderful blend of all the U.S. cultures. Here there is something for everyone.”

Later at the memorial, Bilal Wahab, a 27 year-old Iraqi student studying international affairs at American University in Washington, walked cautiously across a glass bridge over 9,000 red poppies that represent the dead from World War I. Wahab, a Fulbright scholar, wondered why a world war memorial stands in Kansas City. He learned that the memorial was built by the Kansas City community and that schoolchildren collected money door-to-door for its construction.

It’s the kind of community cohesiveness Wahab said he would like to see in his country.

“America has people with a lot of divisions — conservative and liberal — some are very extreme, but there is no civil war. It translates to power, cohesion, and I like that,” he said.

The scholars expect to bring what they learn on this visit and subsequent trips to other countries to their work on the next Oxford International Review. The book publishes unabridged interviews with world leaders and analyses of those interviews written by teams of scholars from around the world, said Rachel Yould, Oxford International Review editor-in-chief.

This year’s 732-page book deals with America’s role in the world. The 2007 book will address conflicts around the world and solutions.

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