Andrew Pochter is the 21-year-old Kenyon College student who was stabbed to death during a violent demonstration in Alexandria, Egypt on Friday.
I didn't have the privilege of knowing Andrew, although it's possible our paths crossed in September 2011, when Dean Obeidallah and I performed our Standup for Peace comedy show at Kenyon College. Before the show, Dean and I had dinner with student organizers from the Middle Eastern Students Association, of which Andrew Pochter was a member. The students impressed Dean and I with their optimism, intelligence, idealism and determination to build bridges and seek peace among people of all backgrounds.
Andrew Pochter was that kind of person. In the Kenyon College News Room Marc Bragin, the Hillel director and Jewish chaplain of Kenyon said, "His belief was that everyone should be included, everyone had a voice, and no one should be left out because what they think is different than what others think." His mother, Elizabeth Pochter said, "Andrew was interested in the whole Jewish side and the whole Palestinian side."
The News Room goes on to say that while taking a Kenyon course on Middle Eastern politics, he read poems about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to his girlfriend, Clara Fischman. "The class wasn't just about some detached war to him, but a struggle that he passionately wanted to resolve," she said. "Andrew was a person who didn't see the world as separate nations, but a collection of vibrant cultures."
Former MESA president Tess Waggoner, who helped bring Dean and I to Kenyon, said, "He was dedicated very much to making people understand each other. He was a bridge-builder."
"I have never met a single person who was more passionate about life on this earth, and he lived every moment of his life exactly the way that he wanted to," said Zachary Caputo, one of Pochter's close friends at Kenyon in The American Interest."I am only one voice in a crowd of countless people that would echo these words: Andrew Pochter truly is a great man, and his spirit will continue to touch more people than I can fathom."
Andrew Pochter, at age 21, was already wiser, more insightful, and had accomplished more than the adults who refuse to accept different cultures, because they are blinded by prejudice and entrenched ways of thinking. Those misguided adults should be more like Andrew Pochter when they grow up.
For those of us who yearn for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and who seek understanding and acceptance of all cultures, Andrew Pochter will always be a role model and an inspiration.
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