By Chandler Thornton/JNS.org
The campus of American University is no stranger to political activism. Located in northwest Washington, DC, many students are drawn to the university for its proximity to the heart of U.S. politics and foreign policy. The School of International Service, the largest international relations school in the country, regularly partners with student groups to host global leaders on campus, often when the leaders are in Washington meeting with U.S. presidents, Cabinet officials, and members of Congress.
When it comes to student activism related to Israel, American University students are fully engaged and passionate about the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. There are a myriad of student organizations on campus that advocate on behalf of Israel and its special relationship with the U.S., and students take full advantage of their location in the nation’s capital to engage in internships, networking, and educational opportunities related to the State of Israel.
Faculty members at American University, especially those who previously held high-level positions within the government, understand the importance of Israel and make it a top priority to promote respectful dialogue on the issue of Israel inside and outside of the classroom. For example, the Center for Israel Studies at American University was created to study, examine, and interpret the rich landscape of Israel as a nation and a people. The Center regularly hosts speakers on campus for policy discussions, and will host former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren in late September.
In Washington, DC, home of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, the polarization among Congressional leaders is at an all-time-high, according to some political scientists. But among the partisan groups on campus at American University, the College Republicans and College Democrats have found great unity on the issue of U.S.-Israel relations.
The two organizations find common ground when it comes to supporting the special U.S.-Israel relationship, and they frequently host events with member of Congress from both parties addressing their support for Israel. The support for Israel has transcended party lines, uniting members of both parties on the foundation of our shared democratic values with Israel.
On campus at American University, with a civically engaged student body in the nation’s capital, the strong support for Israel is a product of the free marketplace of ideas. Members of the academic community are challenged to engage in thoughtful debate related to many issues of global importance such as terrorism, ballistic missile security, or nuclear nonproliferation. There is a culture of independent thought on the American University campus when it comes to Middle East policy and Arab-Israeli relations. Students are encouraged to think for themselves, listen to all ideas presented, and engage as future public policy leaders in Washington, DC.
In June 2015, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Israel on a leadership trip organized by AIPAC and funded by the Milstein Family Foundation. The trip to Israel was truly life-changing, and I returned to the U.S. with a renewed belief that, now more than ever, we must do everything in our power to strengthen the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Chandler Thornton is a master’s degree candidate studying public administration and national security at American University.
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