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Educating model citizens, to create a culture of public service
Published in Daily News Egypt on 15 - 04 - 2007

Former US presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis, speaks at AUC
CAIRO: Ever the politician, Michael S. Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic presidential candidate in 1988, immediately created a rapport with the audience at The American University in Cairo (AUC) last Wednesday.
"Don't expect to hear pearls of wisdom from me about US policy in the Middle East, he said, explaining that when a group of AUC students had questioned him about it earlier he couldn't respond.
"I can't tell them because I don't know, he added, only partially in jest.
Invited to Cairo by the John D. Gerhardt Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement and the Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdelaziz Al Saud Center for American Studies and Research, Dukakis was asked to speak about the role of public service in citizenship.
Having been involved in public life for over 30 years, it's a subject he's passionate about.
Today, he divides his time between Northeastern University in Massachusetts and the University of California, Los Angeles, where he teaches political science and public policy.
I can bring to a classroom a wealth of information, because I have been there, Dukakis told CNN during a 2005 interview. "I encourage all of my students to nurture their love of public service.
Though Dukakis understands that the Egyptian system of government doesn't provide as many opportunities for involvement as compared to the US - which has some 85,000 elected offices - he still believes that there are ways for students to participate in the public sphere.
Dukakis shared Northeastern's Cooperative Education Program with the audience as an example of enlisting students in public service.
Students alternate between six months of study and six months of paid work experience in jobs developed by the university. The program places about 5,000 students with more than 2,000 co-op employers in Boston, across the US, and even internationally.
They have the choice to apply to several private sector companies or work at state and government offices and non-profit organizations.
The work experience has "an enormous impact on the students, explained Dukakis. But more importantly "there are enormous benefits to creating an environment where young people in particular are encouraged to get involved.
He urged AUC to create a similar program to encourage public service as part of the curriculum and ethic of the institution.
But would Egyptian universities, he questioned, be able to create the same co-op program with local government and the non-profit sector? If the political arena lacks prospects, public service openings still exist in schools, charity organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
The Daily Star Egypt asked AUC Political Sociology Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, whether he felt that current opportunities existed to recruit students into the public sector.
He believed that there were openings at non-governmental organizations, the new political parties that have recently emerged, and organizations like the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, where he chairs the of Board of Trustees.
"It's like the chicken and the egg. It's something like supply-side economics: If you have the goods people will come, he explained. Simply creating opportunities will encourage public service, and hence create more opportunities, he believes.
"But I don't know if it's effective enough to keep them motivated, Ibrahim pointed out.
He questioned Dukakis about the political atmosphere during the Red Scare in the US in the 1950s, comparing it to the current situation in Egypt and what he termed the "Islamic Scare.
Dukakis responded that the fear, which may not be irrational, is often dealt with through extreme measures without doing harm to constitutional rights and civil liberties.
He compared the Red Scare to the atmosphere in the US following Sept. 11, 2001. The one difference today, he pointed out, is that "this time around we've created a network of institutions in the US that are fighting to maintain these rights and civil liberties.
As an example, he referred to the hundreds of US lawyers working at protecting the rights of prisoners detained in Guantanamo.
With regard to the situation in Egypt and the recent constitutional amendments that have hindered public participation, Dukakis said: "I'm lost to try to advise you on this because I've never had to deal with it. What do you say to the kids on campus who want change?
Dukakis continued to discuss his own experience being involved in public service, starting with running for town meeting member in his borough while he was still a law student at Harvard.
He sought the Democratic Party nomination for President of the US in the 1988 elections, prevailing over Jesse Jackson and Al Gore among others. He won 45.65 percent of the popular vote, but lost to President George H.W. Bush.
Dukakis is reminded of his disappointment at losing the presidential elections on a daily basis, he told the audience. "If I had beaten the old man, we'd never have heard of the kid.


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