CGI News: Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Berkshire School’s commitment to “an enduring love of learning” embraces initiatives that extend the confines of the school’s core curriculum. Such initiatives include sustainability, critical thinking, global education, and service learning. It is difficult to ignore that students are experiencing an increasingly “globalized” world. We are at a critical junction in education to provide Berkshire students with the opportunity and competencies to reflect and share their own points of view and roles within a global and interconnected society. Likewise, it is important for them to understand and discuss complex relationships of common social, ecological, political, and economic issues so as to derive new ways of thinking and behaving in such a world. It is for this reason that Berkshire School has developed the Center for Global Initiatives (CGI).
As part of this initiative, Berkshire School has joined the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts, enabling Berkshire students and faculty to have access to some of the world’s most notable leaders, policy makers, and educators.
Recently, two Berkshire students had the opportunity to hear and interact with one of the most honored diplomats in the world: former Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Daud Baz ’13, Kira von Steinbergs ’13 and I attended a dinner hosted by The World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts, then listened to the Ambassador's views in a seminar titled “Lessons from a Long War: The US and the Strategic challenges of the Broader Middle East”.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker, a statesman whose distinguished diplomatic career spanned four presidencies, has been named Yale’s first Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy where he will teach both undergraduate and graduate students in the 2012-13 School-Year. Ambassador Ryan Crocker is a Career Ambassador within the United States Foreign Service and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012; the United States Ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009; and served as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, to Syria from 1998 to 2001, to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997, and to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993.
It would be difficult to find a diplomat with as much direct experience regarding today’s Middle East as Ambassador Ryan Crocker. This was evident as he shared his insightful and discerning perspective with a room full of guests over dinner. His expertise and candor were applauded as he enlightened an attentive audience for nearly an hour and a half. Guests included local professionals, veterans, university scholars, international entrepreneurs, Foreign Service personnel, as well as students from Berkshire School and Wilbraham & Monson Academy.
During his talk, Ambassador Crocker made the point that because so many situations around the world could be termed "hellacious problems" it has become difficult to construe “which are vital national-security threats, and which are just messy?” If it’s a real threat, Crocker wants to know, “What’s our plan?” He has seen a few plans that are a deadly combination of inexperience and political pressure to “just do something,” which has driven some American politicians to advocate for what he calls “ill-conceived military intervention abroad.” He discussed his perspective on Afghanistan’s future and what the world can do to help. He urges the U.S. and the rest of the world to make it a priority to help fund the salaries of Afghan soldiers so that they can continue to fight against those wishing to tear down the newly formed democracy. The Ambassador had several examples of what successful commanding officers in the region accomplished and how they managed to achieve it. He touched on Pakistan and lessons learned in diplomacy. In addition, the Ambassador reviewed his thoughts on the severity of the complex situation in Syria.
“Listening to former Ambassador Ryan Crocker was a real treat and helped enlighten me on issues regarding the Middle East," said Kira von Steinbergs ’13. "He helped explain issues and presented a point of view you cannot obtain by simply reading a textbook or listening to news reporters; he gave us an inside view on what is going on and how complex the problem really is. Experiences like this cannot be replicated in a classroom and are invaluable to a higher learning and understanding.”
-- Jen Anderson, Director of the Center for Global Initiatives, Spanish teacher