After bringing more than 60 Pakistani students to the UMass Amherst campus for the past three summers as participants of the Pakistani Young Leaders program, Mike Hannahan, visiting scholar in Political Science, traveled to Islamabad in January, where he oversaw a reunion of the program’s alumni before embarking on a speaking tour of the country—a trip that coincided with President Obama’s second term inauguration and provided ample opportunity to discuss the U.S. government’s policies and practices.
As director of the Civic Initiative, a democracy education enterprise that brings educators and students from around the world to the UMass Amherst campus for summer courses in public policy, Hannahan regularly collaborates with the State Department to finance and administer programs designed to provoke international cooperation, foster tomorrow’s leaders and provide a deeper understanding of American civic values and processes.
More than 90 percent of the Pakistani Young Leaders alumni from the 2010-12 summer programs attended the reunion in Islamabad. Ambassador Richard Olson addressed the gathering, pledging to continue "the largest exchange program in the world.” Through various programs administered through the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. has hosted nearly 12,000 Pakistani alumni, incorporating academic exchange into a strategy for maintaining a connection to a region critical to U.S. foreign policy.
Hannahan continued his visit in Karachi, where he spoke to 100 guests at the U.S. Consulate just before President Obama’s inaugural address. Hannahan placed the speech in historical context, noting that “the greatest thing about the inauguration is that it is regular and predictable—that democratic institutions sometimes need to be boring as government can’t take too much excitement.”
The trip was covered by JOSH radio of Karachi, the largest youth station in the city, in addition to several of Pakistan’s largest newspapers.
Initially, Hannahan was to be accompanied by five Political Science majors who have worked with him on the Pakistan program each summer. The UMass students help coordinate and oversee all of the program’s logistics, in addition to helping participants navigate the area—both physically and culturally. Reports of political gatherings in Pakistan, which were believed to block access to Islamabad, caused the U.S. Embassy to postpone the students’ trip. It is currently planned to take place in March.