On Tuesday, September 27th, International Focus was honored to receive Dr. Assad Meymandi as our guest speaker for its monthly Citizen Diplomacy Series. In addition to Dr. Meymandi, we were joined by foreign exchange visitors from the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). This delegation consisted of Russian educators learning about the use of digital resources in the classroom. Although the focus of the night was not on technology and the classroom per se, it was an enlightening and inspiring evening for all.
Dr. Meymandi, longtime resident of Raleigh and renowned psychiatrist, humanist, and philanthropist, spoke on the topic of “Reflections on Ontology”. The talk, which spanned from the abstract question of ontology—of existence—to the deeply personal, dwelt on the insights Dr. Meymandi had extracted from the areas of science, theology, and philosophy and addressed not only what is to be human but to be better, more altruistic humans. Citing such classical scholarship as Galen, Augustine of Hippo, Maimonides, and Ibn Khaldoun as well as Freudian and developmental psychology, he walked the audience through the psychological development and expression of altruistic behavior and thought and gave advice on how to exercise this in our daily lives to promote goodness and love, agape, in our personal lives.
Before his talk Dr. Meymandi was introduced by International Focus Board President Ms. Nazi Kite with a long list of his accomplishments and impact on our community and a presentation of a certificate of appreciation from IF. At the end of his talk, Dr. Meymandi was given an emblematic IVLP pin from Ms. Leila Bekri in honor of his inspiring life achievements, as well as, his friendship and support to international exchange programs and International Focus, Inc.. That talk concluded with the doctor taking questions from the audience on both the particulars of his talk and advice on modern life and health. The answers the doctor gave were insightful, candid, and simple solutions and if practiced seem promising to improve not only the lives of those who follow them but for society as a whole.
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Susan Shultz, the acting director of the Office of International Visitors of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, led a discussion on strengthening international relations through North Carolina’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). IVLP accepts international leaders and invites them to the United States, from 3 days to 3 weeks, to cultivate lasting relationships between current and emerging professionals around the world and their American counterparts and provides opportunities for foreign opinion makers to gain firsthand knowledge about U.S. society, culture and politics. The discussion, which was held on Tuesday, August 30th, focused on IVLP impact in many different areas. First, IVLP’s social impact was explored. This included programs like Bangladeshi scientist studying climate change and German policy makers studying refugee resettlement protocols. IVLP’s financial impact for the state of North Carolina was also discussed, citing that the program on average generates 4 times the amount of revenue that it cost to run. Lastly, we discussed the ways that citizens of North Carolina can be an impactful part of this program. This is done by actively being a part of organizations like International Focus.
International Focus had the honor of hosting the former ambassador to Togo, Brenda Schoonover, on Tuesday, June 21. Ambassador Schoonover shared her experiences of being a career long Foreign Affairs officer, her time in the Peace Corps as both a volunteer and as a director, as an ambassador's wife to Richard Schoonover who also served as a Foreign Affairs officer, and as the ambassador to Togo from 1998 to 2000. She expressed her passion for the work she accomplished, her frustrations on some of the politics that go into ambassador appointment, and detailed the different ways that she as a representative of the United States helped to improve the countries she served in. Following her presentation, the participants were invited to ask the ambassador questions. The questions ranged from about her time in the Peace Corps to the Chinese trade presence in Africa. International Focus would like to thank Ambassador Brenda Schoonover for leading such an informative and lively discussion.
On the week of Friday, June 10th, International Focus had the honor of hosting a group of Canadian delegates. Through the International Visitors Leadership Program, this group’s focus was to research the American university system and systems for educational exchanges. A group of International Focus members had the opportunity to talk with the group of delegates over coffee. We started by discussing all of the Canadian influence in North Carolina, from how Canada is the number one trade partner with North Carolina to the Canadian presence in the Raleigh Symphony. As a part of the visit, the group toured the universities in the area. The biggest difference they noticed between Canadian universities and American universities was the resources available to students that aren’t directly related to academia. They also noted that the academic resources in American universities have a very high standard. “The technology [in NCSU’s Hunt Library] is absolutely amazing!” one member had to say.
On May 24th, International Focus was fortunate to host Professor Klaus Larres as he lead a presentation and discussion on Germany and Global Order as a part of the Citizen Diplomacy series. Professor Larres of UNC discussed Germany’s position in Europe, Germany’s trade relations with China and the United States, and its political relations with Russia. Professor Larres also discussed Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and how her background growing up in East Germany has influenced the decisions she has made, in regards to the refugee crisis and her political relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin. The evening was ending with a Q & A sessions with questions from those in attendance, ranging with questions about WWII’s influence on modern Germany to Germany’s military use.