Community Program Reflects On Assassinations Abroad, Diversity
By: Molly Cassidy
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former U.S. ambassador to India, David Mulford, recently spoke at Michigan State University about the attacks abroad on government officials.
Mulford’s event was one of many hosted by the One Book One Community program, based on the Indian book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”
Mulford, 75, said at the Kellogg Conference Center that he felt threatened every day working as ambassador from 2004-09 in India. That was partly due to India providing the protection for the perimeter of the embassy.
“You’re dependent on the police and military of that country,” said Mulford, who recalls giving rifles instead of handguns to Marines inside the embassy in case terrorists breached the compound walls. “In my view the U.S. makes a big mistake by not running a different program which says these countries aren’t up to that job, and that’s what happened in Libya.”
In September U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other members of the embassy staff were killed in an attack in Benghazi. Since the attacks, President Barack Obama has ordered embassies everywhere to increase security.
In India, guards protecting the perimeter of the 40-acre compound surrounding the embassy were privately hired and did not carry weapons. Their job was to check identification and admit people onto the grounds.
Only the main embassy had armed Marines to protect the people and secret documents inside.
Mulford, also talked about how the war on terrorism affected his life as an ambassador every day. Each morning there was an update of top-secret information on possible threats to the embassy.
“It makes for scary reading in part because it’s the real thing intercepted from terrorists who are nearby and whose chief aim is to kill you, kill Americans-destroy the embassy,” Mulford said. “And they don’t do it all the time but they are there all the time.”
In its 11th year, One Book One Community is a partnership between the MSU Provost’s office and the city of East Lansing. The two bring people together for discussions in a variety of settings, according to the program’s website.
Senior Associate Provost June Youatt said this year’s book, which is mandatory reading for all MSU freshmen, is about becoming an educated global citizen.
“Sometimes the books are easier, more fun or difficult,” said Youatt. “But they are intended to provide a shared experience across our community so for awhile we’re all struggling with the same ideas.”
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” is authored by New York Times bestselling author Katherine Boo. The story takes place in an Indian slum whose residents are fighting against poverty, inequality and for an education in hopes of a happier life.
Shashi Karve, 52, an Indian native also spoke last week as part of the program at the East Lansing Public Library. Her topic was Indian culture.
“I think the reason people request me to speak is they want to broaden their minds,” said Karve, who has also been asked by college professors to speak to classes at Hindu temples.
“They want to understand different cultures because it takes away some of the intimidation and threatening feeling of the unknown,” said Karve.
Karve admitted that some students elect not to attend when she speaks at a Hindu temple.
However, she said this year’s book is another way to spread understanding.
“It happens to be a book set in India but it’s bringing people of different traditions together to interact with each other, and it helps on so many levels in so many ways,” said Karve.
For the full schedule of upcoming events, visit www.onebookeastlansing.com.