Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Estranged Shah Should Do More

In the past week, I have had the fortune to see two speakers here on Georgetown’s campus: Hayden Panettiere and former Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi. Both speakers had tremendous turnouts, although slightly different demographics; Miss Panettiere’s crowd was mostly hormone-driven young males, while his Highness’ audience seemed a little more concerned with international politics than the plight of sea-dwelling mammals. Though I appreciated the caliber of the speaker, there were a few things about the Shah’s speech that disappointed me. First, I was disappointed that the university was unable to secure Gaston Hall for him. I would like to think that Georgetown University would be able not only to provide hordes of security for the Shah – which it did – but that they would be able to put this controversial speaker in a more prestigious location. I feel as though the state of world affairs, particularly U.S.relations within the Middle East, are slightly more important that saving the whales – not to insult Miss Panettiere, of course. But given that we are a university that boasts a school of international relations ranked fourth in the country by the magazine Foreign Policy, I would think that the president, or at least the deans within the School of Foreign Service, would push for a higher capacity and more esteemed location. Focusing more on his Majesty, however, I must admit that after his speech I was left disappointed. I felt that he mostly read his speech, and that it came across as unprepared because he was unable to draw in the audience. Moreover, I was disappointed that he did not really make any statements that were earth shattering or controversial. He mostly recited normal political rhetoric,, saying nothing that I did not already know from classes or from reading newspapers. I came in expecting to hear about his efforts to subvert the regime in Tehran, or to hear about what line of policy the United States should take regarding not only Iran, but the whole Middle East as well as politicized Islam. By the end of his speech, however, I did not hear valid answers to these questions. The biggest stand that he took was that the United States should not pursue war with Iran, but even this he did not extend to comment about our current military engagements within those areas. At least Hayden gave us answers. After his thirty-minute speech, the Shah took questions, a task he handled very eloquently and with the panache of a practiced politician. I was impressed with the Georgetown community, save a few, with their eager minds and ability to push the Shah into the more controversial realm. He faced questions regarding his father’s despotic regime and the regime’s secret police and torture. He was pressed about the prospect of war against Iran and the upcoming March elections in Iran. But even though he did well with the questions, he still shied away from giving in-depth answers – perhaps trying to evade negative press both here and abroad. He gave answers to avoid detailed responses, stating a lack of time or promising to return to a question “if time permits.” Well, he never did. I was given the impression that although he stated that his mission was a transition from a theocratic government to democratic institutions, he left the audience with the feeling that he could be doing more even while in exile. I had a discussion with a few friends of mine at a reception following his speech. Each shared similar sentiments regarding the Shah’s speech and positions. I think that one of the students asking the Shah a question phrased it best: “They don’t even know who you are!” In a powerful moment, this student beseeched the Shah to take a more active stance, if nothing else, as the spirit behind the democratic movement. He urged Pahlavi to use to his advantage the American free press and the Internet to get his message out to Iranians in exile and in country and to the rest of the world. Overall, I was left with an empty feeling after listening to the Shah. I, too, feel as though if he would really like to see democratic institutions sprout up in the Middle East, the separation of church and state, the liberalization and spread of Western practices, he ought to be doing more. Your Majesty, with all due respect: help your people. If that is your wish, use your position to the utmost benefit. Speak out. Organize the Iranians in exile all over the world! Motivate your nation’s people to make Iran the regime of the citizen. D.J McLaughlin is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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