Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, Tuesday urged college students across the nation to become engaged in what he called the defining issue of the 21st century -- the struggle between mainstream Muslims and extremists over the future of the "broader Middle East." Listen to a podcast or watch a video of his speech.
This article was first published by the UCLA Newsroom by Liz Kivowitz.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Tuesday urged college students across the nation to become engaged in what he called the defining issue of the 21st century -- that is, the struggle between moderate and extremist Muslims over control of the Middle East.
"Your generation should seize the moment to become engaged in this effort, just as your predecessors did in Europe, Asia and Latin America," Zalmay Khalilzad said in a lecture sponsored by UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.
Khalilzad suggested a variety of ways students could take part, including learning the languages and culture of the region, choosing a career in public service, fashioning joint business ventures in the Middle East and establishing ties with media in the region.
"There is no limit to how you can make a difference, and the security of our country as well as the lives of Afghans, Iraqis and others depends on what you do," Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan and educated at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, earned a PhD at the University of Chicago and later taught at Columbia University. He became a U.S. citizen in 1984 and a year later joined the U.S. State Department. He served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003-05 and to Iraq from 2005-07 and, while ambassador to these countries, helped start American universities in each. In March 2007, Khalilzad was named the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
In his talk before about 150 people at the James West Alumni Center, Khalilzad stressed that if there is ever to be a Middle East not dominated by extremists, the U.S. and other countries interested in peace must facilitate the active support of Muslim countries -- including those outside the Middle East -- that have embraced democracy.
He added that there must also be "a comprehensive forward engagement with civil society in Middle Eastern countries."
"We need to find better ways to engage individuals and groups seeking a moderate Middle East," Khalilzad said. "We have to help them network with each other and like-minded groups around the world."