Steamboat Springs A new generation is emerging in the Middle East that has sparked change throughout the entire Islamic world, international journalist, author and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright told a packed audience during the first free Seminars at Steamboat lecture series of the summer Thursday.
Wright, who said her mother started acting at Steamboat’s Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in the 1930s, presented “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World” to a crowd of about 560 people at Strings Music Pavilion. The title of the seminar is the same as the book Wright published this month.
A youth movement is responsible for the recent uprisings that are eliminating autocracies and extremists and promoting democracy in some of the 22 Arab countries of the Middle East, Wright said.
She said a confluence of changes led to the uprisings, including increased education and higher literacy rates among Arab men and women, two-thirds of the 300 million Arab people being younger than 30, access to communication tools such as satellite TV and the internet, and the ability to circumvent government censorship.
Arab youths effectively used peaceful civil disobedience and social media, rap and hip-hop music, comedy, films, plays and even comic books to spread messages, Wright said.
“We can never underestimate people power these days,” she said. “This is really one of the most inspiring times of my life, and I’ve witnessed change all over the world.”
Wright kicked off the ninth season for Seminars at Steamboat — and the first with five lectures. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh will deliver “A Foreign Policy Report from Washington: Are Obama’s Policies Working?” on Aug. 4.
Seminars co-founder and board member Jane Stein said Wright initially was scheduled to discuss Iran but recent developments changed the topic at the last minute.
“I thought it was just an amazing coverage of the issues,” Stein said. “We can read about things in newspapers. We can see photos in the newspaper. But to hear her stories has a bigger impact on people.”
She said it was a good way to start the season.
Steamboat residents Scott and Gwen Sanwick have attended Seminars at Steamboat lectures in past years. The couple said they were impressed with Wright’s knowledge and appreciated her approach.
“I’m pretty fascinated by that region of the world. We’ve traveled over there some,” Gwen Sanwick said. “Rather than (Wright’s presentation) being political views, it was personal insights about what’s going on over there.”
Wright called the next decade a “time of unprecedented transformation” for the people of the Middle East and the U.S., but the transition to democracy likely would have to take place without American resources because of the country’s economic challenges.
She added that transitions don’t take place quickly.
“The sad truth is change takes a long time, but my bottom-line message is this is the beginning of the beginning,” Wright said. “But it is a beginning, and that’s what we need to realize.”
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com