Charlotte: Lunching and Learning with Prof. Chris Alexander

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Lunching and learning was the order of the day at Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte on Tuesday.

The Charlotte Chapter of the Alumni Association hosted alumni, parents and friends of the college to hear a talk, “The Arab Spring After Three Years,” by Chris Alexander, the John and Ruth McGee Director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program. As Professor of Political Science, his research and teaching focus on the Middle East and North Africa, and he has written extensively about politics in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. He also consults for U.S. government agencies that work in the region.

Clarifying meaningful perspectives in such a sprawling and evolving topic over a workday lunch is a tall order, but Alexander delivered with a potent mix of learned insight, blunt assessment and telling metaphor. A lively Q&A afterward stood testament to his audience’s engagement.

“The Arab Spring was not as revolutionary as we thought it was at the time. It was not organized and structured well enough to be revolutionary, and that’s why it succeeded in toppling only a very small number of rulers. In the aftermath, politics in the region have become more polarized between secularists and Islamists,” Alexander said, noting that while secularists had the passion of the moment, Islamists had the organization and experience of many decades. “This is going to be an evolution, not a revolution, as we look to support economic growth and a political landscape that involves more than one well-organized player.”

Box lunches by Something Classic Catering (Jill Sypult Marcus ’86) included the best pasta salad I’ve ever had, along with my choice of entrée, roast beef sandwich. Also, the chocolate chip cookies were outstanding.

Charlotte chapter president Jamie Kiser ’86 said the college is looking forward to more such opportunities to become a more regular participant in intellectual and cultural life in Charlotte. Count me in.




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