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Ambassador Jawad Travels to Orlando

Ambassador Said T. Jawad traveled to Orlando, Florida on November 21-22 to speak at the opening of the "In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits" exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center. While there, he also spoke to a group of middle-school students who had just completed a segment on Afghanistan in their social studies class.

The exhibit of National Geographic portraits included the world-famous image of Sharbat Gula, better known as the Afghan girl. Gula, who was 13, was photographed in a refugee camp in Pakistan by Steve McCurry in 1984. In his remarks during the opening of the exhibit, Ambassador Jawad spoke of how the image of the Afghan girl broadly reflects Afghanistan diverse history and current challenges.

"The story of the Afghan girl closely parallels the struggles Afghanistan has suffered," he said. "But in the last seven years we have worked with the international community to rebuild our institutions and recover our cultural heritage. Though we still face challenges, we have made significant advances. Sharbat may not yet have an easy life, but with your support, we are building a better place for her children."

The opening ceremony included performances by the Orlando School of Cultural Dance, the Orlando School of Middle Eastern Dance and Art from the Heart. A number of local dignitaries spoke alongside Ambassador Jawad, including Sarah Van Arsdel, Executive Director of the Orange County Regional History Center; Max Stewart, Executive Director of the International Council of Central Florida; Johanna Clark, President of the Historical Society of Central Florida; and Harold Closter, Director of Smithsonian Affiliations for the Smithsonian Institution.

Earlier that day, Ambassador Jawad visited Howard Middle School in Orlando, where he met and spoke to 60 middle school students that had completed a section on Afghanistan and worked on presentations on different topics related to the country. In a talk to the students, Ambassador Jawad encouraged them to learn a second language and to take advantage of the educational opportunities they had. He also spoke of the challenges children of their age face in Afghanistan. The students asked numerous questions, some focusing on his duties as an ambassador and others on the changes that have taken place in Afghanistan during the last seven years.

The students were all part of a class taught by Mrs. Sharon Medina, a social studies teacher, and attended a diverse middle school led by Dr. Carl Cartwright. Their presentations on Afghanistan had been judged by a panel of local dignitaries; Ambassador Jawad met with the five top students. He is pictured above with winner Sierra Denniston.

Related News: Middle-Schoolers Quiz Afghan Ambassador (Orlando Sentinel)

                           Video of Opening of "In Focus" Exhibit (YouTube)

                      Full Text of Ambassador Jawad's Remarks at Exhibit Opening

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