Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq


September 17, 2005 11:00 AM


by President Lee C. Bollinger

Lee Bollinger: Good morning and welcome. It's a privilege today to welcome
Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, to Columbia. As many of you know, President
Talabani came to office this April as the first Kurdish President of a
predominantly Arab country. His election was in some ways the culmination of a
personal journey. He had fought against the rule of Saddam Hussein for
decades. It was also of course the beginning of a new era in Iraq's history. As
President Talabani himself wrote after his election, he had quote, witnessed a
nation and take its first steps towards a dream. Indeed the whole world was
witness. We have watched with hope and intense interest as Iraq forms a new
democratic government earlier this year, and as you, President Talabani, have
worked to shape a new Constitution.

We have watched because we know how important a peaceful, successful
transition to democracy is for the Iraqi people, for the Middle East, and for the
world. Indeed, in this age of globalization, the future of one nation is bound
tightly to the future of every nation and no one can doubt that this is true of Iraq.
We know that many obstacles exist. We know that powerful disagreements
persist over Iraq's Constitution, even as your country prepares for referendum
one month from now. And we know that the insurgency remains steady and
violent. This week especially, our television screens have been filled with
devastating, heartbreaking images from Baghdad streets. This campus, indeed
every college campus in America, has been gripped by these events. The crowd
here today makes that more than evident.

But take a stroll around Columbia's campus, walk into any of our classrooms, our
dining halls, and invariably, you'll find that Iraq is a central topic of debate among
our students. They know that what happens in Iraq over the next few years will
determine the kind of world their generation inherits. And your remarks will add
new insight to the conversations and classroom discussions they have everyday.
Mr. President, your presence here is important to Columbia as an institution.
One of our core missions in this new century is to engage more fully with the
world outside our gates, to help this city, our nation, and the world to better
understand the complexities of our era. Gatherings like this one help us fulfill
that objective.

Today's meeting helps us nurture the significant historical relationship between
Columbia University and Iraq, one that includes the recent establishment of an
Iraq Program, the Columbia Center for International Conflict Resolution. The
center actively supports Iraq's efforts to develop an open civil society,
responsible, and response of government and an advanced education system to
prepare future leaders. Mr. President, I am glad the path you have traveled has
brought you here today. It is my pleasure to turn the program over to you, and
after your remarks, to open the floor for a brief question-and-answer section.
Once again, welcome to Columbia University.

President Jalal Talabani: Thank you.

Back to Top