“I strive to make the Middle East much more understandable to a broader American public.”
Question: What inspires you?
Vali Nasr: Well there are different things we try to achieve.
Within the narrow confines of academia, you strive for intellectual excellence. We’re all interested in complex issues. We’re driven by the life of the mind. We enjoy the intellectual give and take. And we like to learn more and shed more light on what we work on, be it theoretical issues or issues about countries we’re interested in.
But also, at least in my own case, I strive to make the Middle East much more understandable to a broader American public. Because I think at this particular juncture in time, it is the one relationship we have in the world which matters much more than any others to our future security, prosperity, our position in the world – in ways that it didn’t only a decade ago.
And I think there is a dearth of knowledge. There is a huge vacuum of knowledge in the United States about fundamental issues, and our relationship with the Muslim world and the Middle East. And therefore I think engaging in the public discourse of the kind that we’re actually doing now for a broader audience is an important service.
As an American and as a Muslim; as somebody with an origin in the Middle East, I see it as an important duty to help create that bridge in the public arena.
Recorded on: Dec 3, 2007