NATASHA THOMSON/THE HOYA Edward Walker, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Israel and the UAE discussed entrepreneurship in the Middle East.
Edward Walker, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Israel and the UAE discussed entrepreneurship in the Middle East.

Edward Walker, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and Startup Angels CEO Leslie Jump spoke on Tuesday in the Healey Family Student Center about the current state of affairs in the Middle East and whether high-growth, technological entrepreneurship can succeed in areas where diplomacy has failed.

Walker began by discussing American foreign policy during George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s administrations.

“When Obama was elected president, a lot of us wondered, in terms of foreign policy, where the United States was going to go and how we might pull ourselves out of a deep hole that we had gotten ourselves into over the past eight years,” Walker said. “I don’t want to be one sided, but we can’t deny the fact that the international community did not approve American foreign policies during the Bush administration, particularly regarding to Iraq.”

However, Walker said he does not believe that there has been a fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy since Bush’s presidency.

“Regarding the question of how we can defeat terrorism, much of our foreign policy has been based upon our military policy,” Walker said. “When you have that kind of continuity, your policies cannot change that much. The question is whether we are missing the point, that in fact there are no military answers. We are dealing with beliefs, misinterpretations of religious texts and the feeling of injustice that prevails. This is what our policy should focus on.”

Walker also said he believes that we are now living in a time of change that requires new strategies.

“We can’t use the same ideas, technology and techniques of diplomacy that we used to, because everything has changed so profoundly,” Walker said. “Many people feel that the Arab Spring was unsuccessful, in some ways it was. But in reality, it changed some very important things. One thing it changed was the belief that we can make a change. Until that time, people were resigned, but now people feel that they can make this change, and that changes the entire equation.”

Jump spoke about how her interest in the Middle East was sparked.

“What was most extraordinary to me about this was how these people were deeply disturbed by what had happened and how they were misunderstood,” Jump said. “The people here did not understand the potential for what was going on in that part of the world. That’s what I decided to do with the rest of my life, help the people in the Middle East realize the potential that they have, through entrepreneurial opportunities, specifically through technology entrepreneurship.”

Jump then discussed how Startup Angels, a program that educates entrepreneurs about investment, was created and developed to best aid entrepreneurs in the Middle East.

“We have been working specifically with how to help more people become angel investors, investors in these startup companies,” Jump said. “Also, how to help more people who are already active angel investors to invest in new markets.”

Jump then shared her vision of current Middle Eastern youth and said she has high hopes for their entrepreneurial future.

“When I look at the Middle East, I see a young entrepreneurial and unstoppable group of people,” Jump said. “That is why this is so interesting, as people tend to have a different view here in the west. But I think that more people are now starting to look at them with the same optimism.”

Andrew Jacobsberg (SFS ’15), who attended the event, said that he appreciated the participation of both speakers.

“I thought it was very interesting how this event brought together two different perspectives, which usually do not cross each other,” Jacobsberg said. “The discussion featured a perspective of the private sector, through Leslie Jump’s participation, and of the public sector, with Ambassador Walker’s words. I thought that the way both perspectives intertwined was extremely interesting and made me see the Middle East with different eyes.”

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