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Smart Power: Hollywood goes to the West Bank

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Why would an American youth who grew up in Hollywood, worked there as an assistant director on TV shows, a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International studies want to live and work in the West Bank city of Nablus?  

It's the same reason anyone would want to live and work anywhere else in the world: the opportunity and the reward.

Today, Richard Lechowick, my classmate from graduate school at Johns Hopkins emailed me a video about his work as a drama instructor in the West bank. 

Richard works for Tomorrow's Youth Organization (TYO), a pioneering American organization that establishes community centers in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East and uses its specially-developed model to enable children, youths and parents to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible family and community members. 

The first Tomorrows Youth center is located in the West Bank city of Nablus. A 10 million dollar building which includes 14 classrooms, offices, a conference room, dormitory accommodation for up to 20 American instructors, and generous indoor and outdoor open spaces. The center is located in the poorest areas of Nablus, and its American staff are adored and loved by the community for what they offer the Palestinian children in Nablus. 

Here is the short video Richard sent me about TYO's work in Nablus:

In her remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when she was nominated as secretary of state, Sen. Hillary Clinton said:

 I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called "smart power," the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy.

Tomorrows Youth Organization is living proof of the effectiveness of smart power. American initiatives around the Middle East, and especially in Palestine’s poorest areas offer American youth the chance to teach disadvantaged children drama, arts, athletics, music, computers and earn the love and trust of the Middle East one country at a time. Nothing can better demonstrate what America has to offer the rest of the world than Americans living with and giving generously of themselves to others. 

When Pradeep Ramamurthy, Director of Global Outreach at the White House asked the US Consulate in Jerusalem to take him to an effective youth program in the poorest area of the West Bank, the consular officials took him to see a TYO center.

In my opinion, instead of sending our tax money to support what will not make us safe in America, we should be spending more of our tax money to make Tomorrows Youth a benign American house in every Arab and Muslim country. Hani Masri, the founder and President of Tomorrows Youth, an American businessman of Palestinian origin, has already laid the foundation for two new centers one in Cairo, Egypt, and another in Beirut, Lebanon. Masri's friends and business partners privately fund all of the three centers.

So, Mr. President, Madam Secretary: Why aren’t we building more of these centers?