A scholar and author specializing in Middle Eastern affairs delivered the keynote speech at a President's Associates Dinner Tuesday at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
Fouad Ajami, who has worked with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper during the Egyptian uprisings last year as well as publishing work in The New York Times Magazine and Wall Street Journal, was introduced by OU President David Boren at a reception held before the dinner at the Fred Jones' Jr. Museum of Art.
"He has received a series of truly remarkable awards," Boren said. "Some of the most prestigious awards sought after in this country and around the world, including a five year MacArthur Prize fellowship for his creativity and his scholarship."
Ajami was the director of Middle East Studies at the John Hopkins University from 1980 to 2011. He has authored several books on the Middle East and has been a strong support of America's military involvement Iraq.
He is a naturalized citizen who was born in Lebanon, raised in Beirut, and now lives in New York.
During his remarks, Ajami expressed an optimistic perspective on the recent Egyptian uprisings.
"Suddenly Arabs were claiming and owning their own history," he said. "Suddenly I wasn't hearing that much about America and Israel."
The uprisings were a necessary first step toward representation for all Arab people, Ajami said.
"I thought this was the beginning of salvation, when a people claim their own history and accept responsibility for what they have done," he said.
Ajami feels that the events of Sept. 11 only represent one period of Arab history, and now a younger generation can take control and make a new history, he said.
Ajami also likened the uprisings of the Arab Spring to a prison riot.
"The prisoners rioted and they didn't know what the world was like outside of the prison walls but we should give them a chance to find out," he said. "If this rebellion had remained in Egypt it would have amounted to nothing."