News: US Army captain speaks at Kuwaiti university
Story by Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – In a classroom of the sprawling, immaculate campus at Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait’s first private university, Robert Ayres is lecturing on the American system of checks and balances in government and the role of the American president.
Ayres, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and San Diego native, works as a judge advocate for U.S. Army Central. He was selected as a guest lecturer after Dr. Mohammed Hasanen, an American and Middle Eastern professor of political science at the university for 12 years, approached the Embassy of the U.S. in Kuwait City, Kuwait, to participate in the U.S. Embassy’s Speakers’ Program. Here in Kuwait, the program pairs American professionals with local schools to lecture on a variety of topics.
Given his experience with law, Ayers said he was a good match for the topic, and he felt it was a worthwhile opportunity to interact with Kuwaiti citizens.
“I think it’s very important, when we are stationed abroad in different countries, to connect with the people from the countries we’re in,” said Ayres. “It’s good to build relationships with these other countries and definitely, a big part of that is just sharing with them about who we are and what we believe.”
After discussing the role of the president, including both the powers and limitations of the office, he touched on the election process and the evolution of political parties in the U.S. He fielded questions from the students on topics as varied as foreign policy choices on Syria and the differences in leading philosophy between recent presidents.
“I think it comes across immediately that they heard a lot about the American president in the news, and they had seen a lot of actions by the U.S. at what appears to be the president’s behest; they didn’t necessarily know why he would do some of the things, because they didn’t understand the structure underlying our political system,” said Ayres. “Hopefully, this helped them get a basic understanding.”
Hasanen said primary resources, accessed through the U.S. Embassy Speaker Program and other local and foreign channels, are essential to his students’ education and development.
“My teaching philosophy is that to give the students whatever I have in my box, is not enough. I bring in different practitioners, politicians or parliament members, to give my students the idea of real life,” said Hasanen. “Having these experts will just make my class more interesting and give my students the skills to better communicate and ask questions.”
He explained that knowledge of foreign systems of government is useful to students who are studying a variety of majors, including business. He said it makes them more marketable in the global economy.
“It’s going to open them up, make them well-rounded. They have to see a variety of people, a variety of systems, to make them more flexible,” said Hasanen.
Ayres echoed the professor’s words, stating that the program was a good opportunity for service members to learn about a different country and gain an understanding of how others see the U.S. on the world stage.