Arab Spring issues discussed at University of Central Oklahoma event

UCO President Don Betz and New York Times Deputy Foreign Editor Michael Slackman discussed democracy and the Arab Spring as a part of the American Democracy Project's civic engagement conference at the university.
BY VALLERY BROWN vbrown@opubco.com Published: April 19, 2012
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University of Central Oklahoma President Don Betz and New York Times Deputy Foreign Editor Michael Slackman on Wednesday spoke about uprisings in the Middle East and what Americans can learn from the events.

The uprisings and demonstrations that began in 2010 have become known as the Arab Spring. Rulers have been forced from power in many countries, including Egypt and Libya, and civil protests in many Middle Eastern countries have resulted in violent clashes between protesters and government officials.

Slackman described a personal account while he was reporting in the region. In a morgue he saw a man, firmly clutching his dead brother's hand.

“We tend to focus on big moments,” Slackman said. “But in the sweep of history, individual decisions can be just as important. ... That's what the Arab Spring is — Individual people making history.”

Slackman spoke about reporting in Bahrain and Egypt and how his view of democracy has been influenced during his time there. He summarized democracy in three words: values, diversity and tolerance.

“I think one of the key variables for Americans is to understand the people of this region, not as stereotypes, but as individuals,” Betz said.

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