Since the late eighties, this issue has been presented as an issue of free speech. We all recognize the essential importance of free speech, and no one can be more sensitized to its importance than those who have lived under dictatorship and who have struggled against tyranny. So I value free speech, and value it more than others, but with free speech comes respossibility. To me, free speech does not mean insulting or libeling individuals, or mocking the sacred beliefs of believers whether they are Muslims, Jews or Christians. The invitation contradicts the values that NAFSA stands for of building understanding and respect among different peoples. This is my opinion and here I am exercising my free speech.
Now back again to Iraq. I would like to tell the distinguish audience that, contrary to what you hear, and see on the television, I remain very optimistic about Iraq’s future. I am hopeful that 10 years from now, I will be able to reflect and tell everybody that education made the difference and that US colleges and universities played a significant role in this process.
Finally, I would like to thank the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki for his vision and for his continues support for the Iraqi Education Initiative. Also, I sincerely thank NAFSA for this great honor. Thank you again and God bless you.