International Students Visit CMC For Debate Workshop

Twenty-five teachers and students from Jordan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan visited CMC as part of the Youth Leadership Program on Free Expression, an international, educational, and cultural program to bring outstanding youth and scholars to the United States for four weeks to learn more about First Amendment freedoms.

During the visit to Claremont, students engaged in a three-day debate workshop, co-sponsored by The Claremont Colleges Debate Union–centered at CMC–in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by Relief International, a humanitarian nonprofit agency that provides emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance, and program services to vulnerable communities worldwide. Amy Nelson ’05, a former member of the Debate Union, serves as an education program officer for R.I.’s Los Angeles headquarters.

“It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with Amy again,” said John Meany, director of the Debate Union.

“The debate workshop at CMC allows these students to take the concepts they have learned over the course of this exchange and apply them in skills-based exercises,” Nelson says. “These students are not only much more knowledgeable about the power of free expression, but they have acquired the concrete ability to use their experiences in the United States in a meaningful way in their own countries. The Debate Union is one of the finest organizations I have ever had the pleasure to work with, and these students have had a tremendously positive experience here.”

The international students’ Jan. 29-31 trip to Southern California included travel to Sacramento and Los Angeles and followed a longer visit to Washington, D.C., where the group learned about the American democratic process.

Meany says the Debate Union’s international programs involving exchanges with about a dozen countrieshave established ongoing professional relationships and diverse opportunities for our own students as well as others. “CMC students not only have an opportunity to learn and experience another culture,” he says, “but also to develop more sophisticated and critical perspectives of U.S. cultural and political practices.”

Following a session by Meany about freedom of the press, program participant Du?a Abu-Saleem noted her perceptions on the relationship between the government and the media in America.

“There is a balanced system,” she said. “If the government is silent on an issue, the media will call attention to the problem.”

Abu-Saleem said she was eager to share her experiences with her community back homea Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. However, she said she was surprised to discover she knew more about America’s First Amendment freedoms than some of the American high school students she encountered.

“Students here (in the United States) do not seem to care or appreciate these freedoms,” she said.

Emily Meinhardt ’10