About the Author: Christina Higgins serves as Assistant Information Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.
It’s sounds corny, but it’s true. Every time I have the honor of representing the United States at a local event, I choke up. It’s not hard to represent the United States, because we stand for enduring values. President Obama spoke about these values in a powerful speech on May 21, calling them, “a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity….” But I also choke up, because I feel an immense honor representing my aunts and uncles in Wisconsin and Ohio, my cousins in Florida, Texas, and Oregon, my friends throughout the United States.
It happened most recently in Bethlehem. I had the honor of attending graduation at a Palestinian high school. I presented an award for the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem’s online poetry contest. The contest winners hailed from Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Gaza. As I entered the assembly hall, just behind the Boy Scouts clad in Scottish kilts, I was reminded of the fascinating and rich history of the Holy Land, where young Palestinians play traditional Arabic tunes on bagpipes. I presented the award to the winner, the beaming graduate, Khalid, and congratulated him on his poem, “Let’s rejoice. It’s Springtime!” Reflecting the contest’s theme of nature and conservation, he wrote, “I see the flowers, the roses, everywhere, like the stars in the sky…I hear the sound of rivers and waterfalls, like a melody and a song.”
Khalid displayed all the exuberance of a high school graduate anywhere in the world. He was looking toward the future with anticipation. In fact, many in the region are filled with anticipation, encouraged by U.S. statements of support for the two-state solution, a future where Israel and a Palestinian state will live together in peace and security. All eyes are now on Egypt where President Obama will deliver an important speech on June 4 about America's relations with the Muslim world. I am sure that Khalid will be listening.