October 17, 2005
An Open Letter to Karen Hughes--A Search for Dialogue and
I wanted to write a note to you with the help from my friends in the blogosphere. We have a responsibility
to help the rest of world communicate with the U.S., and America to engage and support the rest of the
world. I know from my frequent travels abroad that even our traditional friends are feeling estranged. They
wonder about our values, government and business community, our excessive consumerism and obsession
with security. They see us as excessively militaristic and unilateral in our behavior. They are appalled by the
images of poor people on the Gulf Coast stranded by Hurricane Katrina and seemingly beyond the help of
the mighty superpower.
I am particularly concerned about the widening chasm between the US and residents of the Middle East.
The strategy utilized to date has focused on telling about the wonders of the United States and how it is
possible for a person of Arab descent to prosper here. We will also get nowhere in trying to position America
as a country of true tolerance and pristine behavior. There is such cynicism about this country in the
Mideast that similar initiatives are bound to fail.
So where to from here? I have a few ideas and would appreciate further contributions from fellow bloggers.
I promise to catalogue them for delivery to the State Department by the end of next week. My strategy is
simple. Let's support people who can play in the wider world, whose success can reflect back to the Middle
East. Whether business people, performers or athletes, let's show that we welcome them on an equal basis
because of their outstanding credentials. In this way we can overcome the presumption that we are in a war
of cultures or religions.
Idea #1--Bring better business techniques to the Middle East--Perhaps we could create a
fellowship program which would place outstanding young Arab business people into major
American companies as interns. We could ask the Young Presidents Organization to invite young Arab
entrepreneurs to the global conferences. We could ask leading business schools like Harvard and Stanford
to offer special summer programs for promising Mideast executives. We could ask Home Shopping Network
to conduct a search for products from Mideast entrepreneurs which might sell in the US or in other markets.
The Edelman network of affiliates was recently joined by a leading PR network in the Middle East (based in
Dubai) and I've seen first hand the we've derived from their involvement.
Idea #2--Promote Arab culture in the US--We need to find an outstanding local entertainer
(think Shakira) who can make a tour of the US. We could organize a traveling art exhibition that
features works by contemporary artists from the Middle East. We can find men and women from the Arab
world who could become top models or designers of fashion items. We should contact major universities to
suggest the inclusion of Arabic in the language studies curriculum. We could engage chefs who are defining
Middle Eastern cuisine and bring them to the West. How about a Middle East film festival with awards
handed out to the most promising Middle Eastern Filmmakers. The judges could be leading international
Idea #3--Commit to a wired society in the Mideast. I heard Craig Mundie of Microsoft say that his
company offers free upgrades of software for computers donated to the Third World nations. Why not ask
all Fortune 500 companies to commit to recycling their used PCs to the teens of the Arab world? We should
also push for low cost access to cell phones. There should also be consideration of way to spur the growth
of the blogosphere in Arab countries. Perhaps even a Middle East blogger conference featuring top bloggers
from around the world.
Idea #4--Make Athletics a Healing Force--Why not use the upcoming Olympics in Beijing a goal for all
Middle Eastern countries to excel in sports and show the world how their societies can produce stars? We
could construct world class training facilities for the region. We could locate top class coaches (Bela Karoli,
where are you now?) and arrange games between Middle Eastern and Western teams.
Idea #5. Fund America Arab libraries-build US libraries to the Middle East, and Arab sections in U.S.
I believe that the acceptance of artists, athletes, business people and academics from the Middle East will
create ties that will bridge a cultural gapâ€”help Americans see and listen to their peers in the middle east,
and vice versa. Thanks for listening.