I left university with the notion that large institutions worked methodically on all issues of need in poor countries. When a met Ling, a boy from Cambodia desperately in need of speech therapy services, I discovered that there was a significant need in the developing world being ignored by our world's largest aid organisations.
In recent years I have worked deeply on quiet conflict management interventions from Afghanistan to Iran, but mostly in Syria. I have watched the unnecessary suffering of countless people, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, the greatest civilian displacement in Middle Eastern history, and I have watched it up close through the lives of my students and friends.
Freedom of speech might be integral to the hard-won flowering of modern freedoms valued in the West, but its fragile bloom has faded and could die without proper tending by courageous politicians and media working in a global partnership to oppose Islamism and the Zeitgeist of political correctness.
Although the UN does important humanitarian work, it is overgrown with the weeds of a dysfunctional bureaucracy and spineless leadership, and has become a watering hole for states that are prepared to sanction sex discrimination and extremist ideology without fear of serious challenge by the world body.
Obama figuratively dialed Turkish PM Erdogan's phone and pressed Israeli PM Netanyahu to apologize for the killings of Turkish activists on board a "peace flotilla" headed to Gaza. Perhaps the relationship has been permanently altered over the last few years, but it may be the fulcrum for resolution of Syria and a broader Israeli/Palestinian peace.