This event held in the Wilson Center on February 7th, 2013, was on “Nation Building: The Plan for Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti.” The two speakers were H.R. Vanneur Pierre, the Minister of Education of Haiti, and Paul Vallas, a scholar at the Wilson Center who focuses on education reform and serves as education consultant to the government of Haiti.
While I was aware of the fact that Haiti was severely stroke by the earthquake in 2010, I was not really paying attention to the education of the people in Haiti, but in its recovery from the disaster. It was interesting to know that “nearly 50% of the Haitian population is under the age of 18;” therefore, it was understanding that education in Haiti was at the top priority in the Haitian government’s agenda.
The speech by the minister of education Pierre was touching in the sense that he showed great passion and optimism on the educational need in Haiti. He said things like, “turning the disaster into an opportunity for development,” and “we want to give all children in Haiti potentials to contribute to the society.”
An interesting fact among the things he said was that 1 million children were currently learning in Haiti without parents being concerned about tuition fees.
On January 30, 2013, I went to the event “Peace Process in Colombia,” held in the Wilson Center, Washington D.C. The two speakers of the event were Enrique Santos Calderon, the brother of the current president of Colombia and famous journalist, and Marta Ruiz Narajo, another well-known journalist of Colombia. They both talked about the peace process and conflicts that have been apparent in Colombia between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The event itself was interesting because not only was it held in Spanish, but it was not a topic that I had an interest or know anything about before. All the information I heard and learn from the session was new and interesting. The speakers were very informative and kind enough to address point by point. Santos was very detailed in explaining the peace process while Marta showed much fervor about the topic through her tone when she said things like “the dirty war continues to be a threat”. Among the things they talked about were the risks of the negotiations and peace process. They were concerned about the public opinion and frustration of such a long, slow process, afraid that the public would think that this peace process will not get anywhere just like it did in previous times. On the other hand, they said that it is a positive sign to see that the armed forces are not opposing negotiations for the first time. They did not forget to mention that this problem was not only a governmental problem, but local where local participation was needed.
This event, held in the Woodrow Wilson Center in D.C., was specially interesting because the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger joined the meeting as the keynote speaker.
While there were three other scholars that joined the conference, Kissinger’s speech marked out the importance of US-China cooperation in the world. Mentioning that conflicts between the two sides would become a disaster, Dr. Kissinger said that it required from both sides patience and understanding on the mistakes and goals that each country had.
Dr. Kissinger also shared interesting facts about China that I did not know. First of all, he said that trade in China at the time of the “opening” was less than the trade Honduras had even five years after. He mentioned that each generation style of leadership in the Chinese government had become less personal over the years; and that China was a country that is determined to be what it has always been.
David Lampton, director of China Studies who joined the group, on the other hand, made a claim that “Cultural Revolution” had hardened the generation of leaders. He also advised the public that China’s political system was NOT that different from the others. He emphasized that Chinese politicians also had political ambitions and that people should not assume that normal political environment is not present in China because it has an authoritarian government.