History is most often taught from a book or in a lecture, as the students in Advanced Placement U.S. History at New Canaan High School can attest. But these students got a chance to discuss ideas about the future of the Middle East with a federal official.
Its really amazing to actually be able to engage with someone whos an expert as opposed to just being lectured by them, said Jackson Busch, 16, a junior and one of several students to speak with Marin Strmecki this week.
Strmecki, a senior vice president and director of programs at the Smith Richardson Foundation in Westport, has worked in a variety of advisory capacities in the U.S. government, including as the Afghanistan policy coordinator and as a special adviser on Afghanistan in the office of the secretary of defense from 2003 to 2005. The mission of the Smith Richardson Foundation is to address serious public policy challenges facing the United States.
Busch said it was cool that Strmecki challenged the students to look at both sides of possible plans. Busch said Afghanistans future is important for American security as well as for stability in the Middle East and elsewhere. If we can create a functioning democracy with a prosperous economy, that can serve as a model for the rest of the region and promote positive change, he said.
Classmate Katherine Moncure, 17, said she enjoyed considering different ideas in the discussion. I liked that he would evaluate what you said or maybe disagree with what you said so you can see what other people can think, she said.
Moncure agreed that the United States should work on changing the hearts and minds of the Afghan people to help secure the Middle East. Changing what the Afghan people are thinking is needed, especially if they dont have faith in their own government right now, she said.
Ned Berman, 16, said the talk was not what he initially thought it would be. I liked that we were able to ask a lot of questions, he said.
Berman said he would like the U.S. government to remove itself from Afghanistan but said American-based companies should stay and build the nation economically. If we can get Afghanistan integrated into the global trade economy, then well find political, social and terrorist issues will be solved, he said.
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