Afghan Ambassador Visits Central Campus & Academy

DMPS Board Chair welcomes Afghan ambassador

Des Moines School Board Chair Teree Caldwell-Johnson welcomes Ambassador Dr. Hamdullah Mohib.

What better place to host Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, on a visit to Des Moines than Central Campus/Academy?

After all, there is a Junior ROTC battalion there from which to muster a color guard for some pomp and circumstance commensurate to the presence of a foreign diplomat. And there is a culinary arts program capable of catering a reception suitable for such a distinguished guest. And there are plenty of inquisitive students to capitalize on the opportunity to ask questions of an official representative from the government of one of the world’s chronic hot spots.

And what a representative of his government and his people Dr. Mohib proved to be on Thursday morning; articulate, wise and funny. In town thanks to an invitation from the Des Moines Foreign Relations Committee, he took a student-guided tour of the facilities before speaking to students in the auditorium in a free-wheeling session that both he and his audience enjoyed.

Only 33, Dr. Mohib joked that he is the envy of most of his ambassadorial counterparts who tend to be much older. “They are all jealous of me because I can get up earlier and stay up later than they can,” he said. “When our president appointed me my jaw literally dropped but I was speechless. ‘Say something,’ my wife told me.”

When Dr. Mohib was the age of his audience he was a war refugee who found himself in the UK trying to complete an education that had been more haphazard than formal due to the turmoil in his homeland. He described how, as a young boy, he and pals made a game out of baiting and then running and hiding from Taliban extremists.

Some of his remarks compared and contrasted Afghanistan and America but Mohib’s central message was a universal truth.

“There is uncertainty in life everywhere,” he said. “But there is no experience so unpleasant or challenging that you cannot learn from it.”

If he does not necessarily fit the profile of international emissaries Mohib feels like he makes the perfect poster boy for his countrymen.

“70% of the Afghan people are under 35,” he said. “We are entrepreneurial and hard-working. But Afghanistan is unfortunately an example that war is a much easier thing to begin than to finish.”

The questions posed to him were wide-ranging but he had interesting, ready answers to them all. He spoke about Afghanistan beating its Asian rivals in cricket like a Cub fan excited about the World Series. He laughed about people calling natives of his land Afghanis. “That’s our currency,” he explained. “Calling us Afghanis is like calling you guys dollars.”

He even dropped a bit of not-so-trivial Afghan historical trivia on the American social studies students, something about how it was actually a 7th century Afghan visionary who postulated not only the existence but the approximate location of the Americas, hundreds of years before any seafaring explorer was credited with “discovering” them.

No one stood to actually thank Dr. Mohib for sharing that little-known fact but it was clear that they appreciated hearing it and equally clear that they were welcome.

And so was His Excellency Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States of America, at Central Campus/Academy in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday October 27th, 2016.

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