U.S. Ambassador helps Barrington High School student with foreign studies
Barrington High School sophomore Matt Robinson had a conference call Thursday with Adam Hay, Senior Director and Aide to the U.S. Ambassador in Turkey. | Photos courtesy District 220
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:25AM
Barrington — Barrington High School sophomore Matt Robinson received more than just a grade on a recent assignment.
For his 21st Century Issues class, Robinson wrote a letter to the U.S. Ambassador in Turkey regarding their relations with neighboring Syria.
In response, the Honorable Ross Wilson, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, arranged a telephone call between Robinson and Adam Hay, Wilson’s Senior Director and Aide.
“We’ve been learning a lot about foreign policy,” said Robinson, explaining that his concern is that the currently raging Syrian civil war will cause refugees to spill over into other countries.
“I believe this civil war could eventually conflict with other countries and start something more serious and create a world conflict,” Robinson said in his letter.
Hay spoke to Robinson last week by phone at the high school.
“It raises a lot of important issues,” Hay said of Robinson’s letter. “Turkey is pretty nervous that it’s got refugees from Syria.”
Hay explained that Turkey has partnered with other countries including Germany, with support from NATO, to supply surface-to-air missiles, which are meant to combat other missiles. A controversy in the Middle East, Hay explained, has been the possible use of chemical weapons.
“Turkey has known for a long time that Syria has chemical weapons capability,” said Hay, speaking on a conference call from Ankara, Turkey.
Robinson said he is concerned about chemical weapons.
“That’s a real threat to Syria and around the border of Turkey,” he said.
Hay said Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition, has denounced these kinds of weapons, as has President Barack Obama. He said Turkey is working with numerous allies to make sure they are prepared for any attack.
“Chemical weapons are different than kinetic weapons,” said Hay. “It’s really hard to control what kind of damage they do.”
Alex Strobl, a social studies instructor who teaches 21st Century Issues, asked Hay what kind of democratic pressures are being applied in the Middle East.
Hay said the tactics are different depending on the country. He said some countries have lots of messages.
“Other countries, we try and be more quiet about it,” he said, explaining that Turkey preaches freedom of rights and expression.
Hay remarked on various uprisings in the Middle East like those in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
“They all imploded; Syria exploded,” said Hay, referring to the outpouring of refugees.
Robinson asked Hay how he became interested in foreign policy and what it is like working at the embassy. Hay said he originally wanted to be a biologist. When his studies led him to anthropology, his interests evolved into politics.
“Choose something that you’re passionate about,” said Hay. “I always found it easier to excel at something you like.”
Strobl said his 21st Century Issues class explores global topics such as drugs in Mexico, wars in Africa and women’s rights in Pakistan.
Strobl said he likes being a guide to students rather than a lecturer.
“The role of the teacher is changing,” he said. “I want students to find out what they’re interested in and reach out.”