Move somethin’

By and

Today, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak will be speaking at Kingsbury Hall from noon to 1 p.m. The speaking engagement presents a rare and privileged opportunity for students to interact with an individual whose life and policies profoundly affected the nature of the world we live in today.

Barak’s career is notable, if only for its controversy. Although instrumental in the forging of peace between Israel and Jordan (as well as coming ever-so-close with Yasser Arafat), Barak’s military policies were often considered stubborn.

Which is to say, Barak was a polarizing political figure that drew attention to the conflict engulfing his homeland and the homelands of his enemies-regardless of whether you loved or hated him.

Political affiliations aside, Barak-such an identifiable and significant political figure of our time-will be at our university, speaking and presumably fielding a few questions from the audience. This is a remarkable occurrence, and one not to be missed.

One of the most underappreciated aspects of attending a respected flagship institution (such as the U) is the opportunity students have to gain a broader, firsthand understanding of the nature of their world by interacting with the people who helped forge it.

Through guest lecture series, guest writer series and visiting professorships, students have the rare (and exciting) chance to ask real questions, hear real opinions and get a real feeling for the nature of power dynamics in the real world.

What was the discussion process like for Barak and his cabinet before withdrawing troops from Southern Lebanon? What was it like to be at Camp David with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat, to see peace so close at hand and then to watch it slip away, yet again? What does it mean to have the voice which speaks the words of a nation, especially in such contentious times?

There is rarely a more elucidating perspective than that of the individual who was actually present for an event-whatever that event may be. Engaging this perspective, one presumes, is second only to the actual experience of being there (and having it) yourself.

There is a kind of human sense of tension, dynamism and weight that can only be imbued by The Moment-can only be grafted onto a person in the heat of the experience. And since none of us were present for the momentous events Barak witnessed (or any of the other notable voices which come annually to the U, from politicians to novelists/critics like Marilynne Robinson), we should be so gracious and consider ourselves fortunate to be able to listen to what he has to say. Who are we to not?

This also, more theoretically, brings up the issue of cultural distancing. Are we willing to speak at length about our beliefs and desires for change in this world? Yes. Are we, empirically speaking, willing to actually engage the world to enact these changes before the last second-maybe when the outcome has not been prescribed? Not so much.

That is, we talk a good game about Desiring, but until the problem gets shoved into our immediate frontal view, we don’t ever seem to actually DO anything about it.

One small step toward rectifying this paradox of action is by positively engaging ourselves in the serious discussions taking place all around us-especially ones facilitated by significant and experienced global figures.