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Cleveland Council on World Affairs

On Tuesday, March 10th, our event for the day was a Cleveland Council on World Affairs Program (CCWA) titled, "What's Next for Afghanistan and Pakistan?" featuring Ambassador Marc Grossman who, along with several other distinguished positions, served as U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2011-2012. Ambassador Grossman said that both countries have a long way to go in terms of battling impoverishment, severe corruption, the influence of the Taliban but both countries have come an enormously long way since we become involved in the early part of the century. He cited statistics that showed how Afghanistan, in particular, had made great progress in terms of economic growth, education for children particularly girls, health care, transportation, mass communications and economic development. He said that Pakistan was a "frail democracy" under siege but thought it was a hopeful sign when the Pakistani government passed resolutions stating what they wanted from the United States because he believed it to be a sign of strength and the desire to move forward.

The ambassador believes that the fates of both countries are very intertwined-that is why he was the special representative for both of them. He went on to say that the United States should help both countries establish governments for and of themselves and work diplomatically to become more pluralistic societies because, even though a strong U.S. military presence was still needed, he didn't believe that fighting was the thing that would ultimately bring this about.

We found Ambassador Grossman to be a very engaging, knowledgeable, and upbeat figure. In fact, he said that after 29 years of service as a diplomat he had come to the conclusion that the best diplomats are optimists which is good because diplomacy can help prevent violence and bloodshed.

We had some good conversations both before and after the program. We talked about Ambassador Grossman's presentation with Ms. Barbara Hawkins, who we see quite often at CCWA presentations, and we agree that he was excellent. We met Mr. Edward Smith who used to work with the State Department and worked on Afghanistan Reconstruction. Mr. Smith now lives locally in Bay Village and we had a good talk with him about foreign affairs.

We had met Mr. Seda Ergun at several programs before this one but this was just about the first time that we were able to visit with him. Mr. Ergun sits on the board of the CCWA so we discussed the possibility of having a speaker from Margaret W. Wong and Associates come to an appropriate program.

Ms. Marta Liscynesky Kelleher, Senior Gift Planning Officer Institutional Relations and Development at University Hospital, talked with us about the long term possibilities for comprehensive immigration reform to be finally be approved by the U.S. Congress and the Senate and signed into law by the President. We seemed to be taking a cue from Ambassador Grossman when we came down on the side of optimism as we agreed that even though it would not happen sometime soon, it eventually will happen.

In fact, just as we were leaving we asked the ambassador if he favored comprehensive immigration reform and believed that our international image would be enhanced if it were enacted; he smiled and said "sure, don't you?"

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