Sunday, June 17, 2012

Letter to President Obama from Jim Daniels

Dear Mr. President:

My name is Jim Daniels. I am a native of Philadelphia, and, for most of my career, a high school teacher. I am also honored to be friends with two excellent photographers that you have met, Zoe Strauss and Ashley Gilbertson.

I have spent my professional life in education because I believe that it is the single most important key to not just individuals having rewarding and fulfilling lives, but because the spiritual health of our communities depends on well-educated citizens. My greatest influences in my life besides my parents have been my teachers, and I have made it my calling to emulate both.

When I was 38, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve, and not long after training, I was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where I spent ten months. During this time I experienced the incredible hospitality of the Afghan people. I met so many interesting and brave Afghans who wanted nothing more than to live and work in peace and raise their families in a safe country. Without exception, the Afghans I met spoke of better opportunities in education as the key to a better future.

With my civilian experience in teaching, I had the privilege of helping to create and shape a unique education program using distance learning to teach literacy. This program has now been implemented in several provinces of Afghanistan, as many Afghans gather around the radio to empower themselves by learning to read and write. I am currently back in Kabul where I am putting my experience to use, again working on education projects that are helping to teach the Afghan National Police how to improve their literacy.

Mr. President, with the commitment of NATO winding down, and with the Afghan National Security Forces set to take full responsibility for their people's fight against the dark forces that seek to hinder peace and prosperity, I implore you to reassure the good people of Afghanistan that the United States will not forget its promise of alliance, support, and friendship. The overwhelming majority of Afghan people are grateful to the United States for the relationship that has been forged between our nations. There is a massive population of scholarly, entrepreneurial, and motivated young Afghans who are ready and able to become the driving force of their nation's future, and I believe that they deserve our utmost support and encouragement.

I speak to the young people of Afghanistan every day, usually in English because they are all cramming into every English language program they can find, and I hear their remarkable and sometimes heartbreaking stories, of the efforts that they continue to make to absorb every opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills so that they can become successful citizens in a peaceful world. Every day I am truly humbled and inspired by the people who have gone through so much turmoil and yet remain forward thinking and hopeful for their futures, especially in the context of how truly blessed we are as Americans, in both the political and material sense.

Mr. President, I thank you for your service to our country. My wish is that as the United States considers its future relationship with Afghanistan, beyond the strategies of global security, we consider how we can improve on and expand the opportunities for young Afghans to pursue every possible avenue for educational advancement. I believe that it would be mutually beneficial to the people of both of our countries to extend and strengthen cultural and educational exchanges and relationships through every possible channel. In sum, please Mr. President, do not forget the remarkable Afghan people whose friendship I consider one of the most valuable experiences I have been honored to have in my life.
Thank you for your time, and my best regards to you and your family.

Jim Daniels
Kabul, Afghanistan


Mr. Daniels was a 2nd and 3rd grade classmate of mine.  Mayfair Elementary.

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