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Former Ambassador shares insights on refugee crises and Mid East disputes

Former Ambassador shares insights on refugee crises and Mid East disputes

UMHB honors students had the opportunity to discuss conflicts in the Middle East and the Syrian refugee crisis with a major player in U.S. foreign relations when Ambassador Ryan Crocker visited the university on January 29. The visit, which was arranged in partnership with the Temple Chamber of Commerce, gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient a chance to talk to the students about life in the foreign service and answer their questions about solving problems which have plagued the Mid East for decades.

Crocker spent more than 37 years in the foreign service, including six assignments as an ambassador in Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Now retired from foreign service duty, Crocker today is the dean professor of the George Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Crocker told the students that their UMHB education makes them good candidates for entering the foreign service. “This is a great university, not only academically but also in terms of the values it upholds and instills,” he said. “The university’s emphasis in particular on leadership and on service gives you great preparation. You are taught how to tackle complex problems, break them down, sort them out, and develop a way forward in a situation. That is what the foreign service requires.”

“It’s a rough business,” Crocker said. “But if you are committed to serving this great country of ours in places and in ways that really, really count, I invite you to think about it.”

After his talk, Crocker took questions from the faculty and students in attendance. When asked what the most important foreign relations issue will be for the next President of the United States, Crocker noted there is a lot going on in the Middle East– civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, as well as problems with Iran and Arab/Israeli disputes. But none of these issues pose as immediate a risk to international relations as the inability of American politicians to work together in cooperation, he said.

“We are not going to be able to confront the challenges of the world if we can’t come together as a people, as an administration, as a congress, until we say, ‘Yes, partisanship is part of the fabric of our politics, but there are issues that are more important than partisanship,’” Crocker said.

“Can we fix it all? No, of course we can’t,” Crocker said. “Can we lead an effort among our closest allies to try and devise a collective response to an international problem? Yes–we’re America! I just hope we do it.”