We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
We had written about Eric before, giving a little bit of information about him, the race itself and his fundraising efforts. His campaign is still underway as he continues his training, so be sure to look at his website and please consider a donating. Large or small, any amount helps him get closer to his goal. Still very curious about him as a person, his motivations and why he chose AUA, we decided to interview him! Here is what he had to say:
AUA: Why run a marathon in Morocco? Why not New York, DC or Boston?
Eric: I am currently living in Rabat, Morocco and studying advanced level Arabic with the support of a NSEP Boren Graduate Fellowship. I have done sports all of my life and running is a very popular sport in Morocco. Every day I see people running around in Rabat and I feel that it is one of their national sports. I have competed in many running competitions, including the major marathons and half-marathons in the United States, and so I signed up for the half marathon in Rabat in April. After completing this half marathon in April I signed up for the ultramarathon in the mountains of Ifrane Morocco at the end of June. I know that 54 miles or 90 kilometers is a long distance, especially on the mountainous terrain, but I also know that it is beautiful in Ifrane, and could not imagine a better way to spend my weekend than to run with Moroccans in a beautiful location.
AUA: Why did you choose AUA as the charity to support?
Eric: I had read Benjamin Orbach’s book that he wrote about his experiences on a NSEP Boren Graduate Fellowship to Jordan. I have found that many of his ideas and experiences are ones that I see here in Morocco. I then saw his website and saw that he worked at an organization called America’s Unofficial Ambassadors and so when I thought about what charity I wanted to fund I did not have to think long before deciding to choose AUA. I feel that with all the changes happening in North Africa and the rest of the Middle East, there is a real need for greater dialogue and understanding between the peoples United States and this region so that we break down stereotypes and are able to work constructively and form friendships that foster greater peace and stability in the future.
AUA: Tell us about your first experience in a Muslim-majority country.
Eric: I am a graduate student in the PhD International Economics program at UC Santa Cruz. I completed my BSFS International Economics at Georgetown University and my MA International Economics at University of San Francisco (USFCA). I have studied Modern Standard Arabic for about 6 years and completed the advanced course at Middlebury Arabic Language Summer School. I have worked on Middle East and North Africa research projects and my professional goals is to combine my background in Economics and my Arabic language skills to contribute to better economic relationships between the United States and this region.