Oman: An Island of Peace in the Middle East
Later on Wednesday we went to the Union Club to attend a program put on by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) entitled "Oman: An Island of Peace in the Middle East" in which the speaker was Her Excellency Hunaina Sultan al-Mughairy, who has been the Omani Ambassador to the United States since 2005.
As the biography that we were given by CCWA read in part:
"Ambassador al-Mughairy is an economist with an extensive business background. Since taking over the ambassadorship, she has been a strong advocate for the U.S./Oman Free Trade Agreement and has focused much of her energy on improving relationships between the United States and Oman. In 2011, recognizing her important contributions to the Oman/U.S. commercial relationship, the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce named her 'Ambassador of the Year.'"
It is also quite noteworthy that Ambassador al-Mughairy is the first female ambassador to represent an Arab country in Washington, DC.
The Ambassador devoted much of her brief presentation to discussing the relationship between Oman and the United States which goes back to the First Treaty of Amity and Commerce that was enacted in 1833. Since then the two countries have enjoyed a special relationship that has benefitted them both immensely. As for free trade, the Ambassador believes that it is a "win win" for both parties and had the statistics to back this up.
Not only does Oman get along well with the U.S., it also enjoys good relationships with all of its neighbors. In fact, good relations with neighboring countries is one of the four guiding principles of its foreign policy with the others being the possession of an international outlook because there is the need to have to deal with a wide range of countries, the promotion of corporate dialogue and peace, and a pragmatic instead of an ideological approach to foreign policy at all times.
Not surprisingly, the Ambassador also praised Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman who appointed her to her position as a strong advocate of diversity and women's rights. He is also very sensitive to the needs of his people as a whole and Oman has really benefitted from having him as its Head of State. We talked to some female college students from Oman who were also present and they seemed to be comfortable with the status of women in their homeland and regarded the Ambassador as a role model.
In fact, there are some 4,000 young people from Oman now attending college in the United States alone and even more attending universities around the world. They are seen as a crucial element of Oman's future as are the other young people of Oman who are well-educated mostly in the technological fields. To be sure there are many expatriates now doing important work in Oman but it is hoped that they will train Omani youth to take over their jobs when it is time for them to return home.
We got to meet and converse with a lot of nice people at the Union Club that evening including Dr. Merose Hwang, Assistant Professor of History at Hiram College; Ms. Amanda McCoy who has worked on many Global Health and Alternate Energy Initiatives; Mr. Michael Perrins of St. Edwards High School who immigrated to the United States from the U.K. and received assistance in obtaining his Green Card from our Mr. Francis Fungsang.
When the program started, we sat next to Ms. Kathleen Kowalski who said that she believes that Ms. Margaret W. Wong is doing an "amazing job" assisting immigrants and therefore made "a great difference in Cleveland." Ms. Kowalski went on to say that as a person Ms. Wong is a "force of nature" and that central casting would never get if right if they were seeking an actress to play her.
Another person that we especially liked meeting was Ms. Gina Abercombie-Winstanley who was born and raised in Cleveland Heights and has had quite a career as a diplomat serving as (among other posts) our U.S. Ambassador to Malta and as the first female Consul General in Jeddah.
To be sure, both former Ambassador Abercombie-Winstanley and Ambassador al-Mughairy are groundbreakers because they served in positions normally associated with men. Ambassador al-Mughairy recalled that when she and her assistant, who was a man, went to visit a U.S. Congressperson on behalf of the U.S.-Oman trade agreement, the Congressperson automatically assumed that her assistant was the ambassador due to his gender. Things turned out okay, however, because he ended up supporting the agreement.
Ambassador al-Mughairy believed that when she was first appointed to her post, most of her fellow Middle East diplomats respected her but did not go out of their way to help her. Subsequently, she worked twice as hard to be a success because she knew failure would hurt the chances of other women to serve in similar posts.
Nevertheless, there were benefits. In fact, as Ambassador al-Mughairy said with a smile, because she was the first female Ambassador to represent an Arab country in Washington, DC she received a lot of invitations to events and with those invitations came opportunities that she readily took advantage of so things ended up working out quite well.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC