On Friday 29th January Methodist College was honoured to welcome His Excellency, Mr Matthew Barzun, the American Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Ambassador Barzun has been recognised for his significant contribution to President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign and previously worked as the U.S Ambassador to Sweden.
The Ambassador was greeted warmly by our Head Boy, Jonathan Gourley, and the Principal, before proceeding to the Whitla Hall to spend over an hour engaging in discussions with our 5th and 6th Form politics students.
The Ambassador’s open, enthusiastic and personable manner immediately sparked the interest of the audience, as he regaled us with his account of his first meeting with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. His refreshing insights gave us a deeper understanding of what it is like to live and work in the world of high level, international diplomacy and politics.
There then followed a very interesting and thought provoking interactive presentation. The first few questions were straightforward and were designed to get us to think about how we know what we think we know about the United States. Responding to the input of the audience, the Ambassador then moved on to tackle a range of foreign and domestic issues, including the rise of IS, climate change, political extremism and gun crime.
The Ambassador put the issue of gun crime in context by drawing a parallel with the number of deaths due to road traffic accidents; approximately 30,000 each per year. He then explained how road deaths had been reduced by the introduction of seatbelt legislation; a restriction on a constitutional right, rather than the abolition of it, and that this was the approach that president Obama was currently taking with his proposals around gun ownership and use.
The record of the United States involvement in international affairs was then discussed, a debate that covered the range of possible interventions from humanitarian aid to military action, with the conclusion being that outcomes are generally better when the United States and the United Kingdom get involved.
The session ended with a further discussion of domestic issues such as the legalisation of same sex marriage and the principles of freedom and prosperity that the U.S strives to promote. The Ambassador’s presentation was thought provoking and inspiring, and the sixty minutes passed extremely quickly.
Our Head Girl, Kirsten Webb, thanked the Ambassador for taking the time to visit and genuinely engage with us, before presenting him with a gift from the College. The Ambassador reciprocated, thanking us whole heartedly for being such a “great crew” before speeding off to his next engagement. A truly memorable experience!