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October 9, 2019
Every seat on the 5th floor commons at Sargent Hall was filled Monday afternoon, as the Ambassador of Bahrain, Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Khalifa, spoke to the Suffolk community. With videos recording and cameras flashing, this proved a rare opportunity for students and faculty to engage in conversation with a world diplomat.
Bahrain is a small island nation in the Persian Gulf, just off the coast of Saudi Arabia. With fewer than 1.5 million inhabitants, Bahrain’s population is comparable to New Hampshire’s.
Many young Bahrainis have traveled to the United States to attend Suffolk University, now home to a considerable concentration of Bahraini students.
Perhaps that’s why Ambassador Al Khalifa chose Suffolk of to speak on US-Bahrain relations and the importance of communication. His responses were often personal and concise.
Cousins, Ahmed and Abdul Al-Khalifa, a sophomore and senior at Suffolk, also attended the event.
“We are very proud that His Excellency has shown up today and this week, representing, first of all, our country, and for representing us Bahraini students at Suffolk University,” said Ahmed in an interview.
“His visit proves his eagerness for us to succeed academically and professionally,” the student continued. “His visits help us students and gives us motivation through times when it’s hard.”
After his presentation ended and the cameras stopped rolling, Ambassador Al Khalifa stayed behind, personally meeting anyone who wished to speak with him. He greeted each person individually with a smile, handshake and even a selfie.
“It’s important to engage in conversation with the students and listen to what they have to say,” Ambassador Al Khalifa told the Journal in an interview. “In the diplomatic core, talk is very limited, whereas in an environment like this, anything is up for grabs, and so for me as a diplomat, to go back to Washington, hearing some of the questions that normally I wouldn’t hear is very engaging and very stimulating.”
President Marisa Kelly was also in attendance. She told the Journal she believes opening this kind of dialogue is important to her and is the kind opportunity she wants to make available for students in the future.
“The learning that takes place when students meet students from other countries is really phenomenal,” said Kelly in an interview. “There are so many things we can do to ensure that conversation student to student is happening and the engagement across cultural lines is happening. The bigger picture of having someone like the ambassador come, further strengthens the visibility of Suffolk in Bahrain and strengthens the opportunity for a greater engagement as we move forward.”