Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Would Opera Benefit From ElBaradei Leadership in Egypt?

Nobel Peace Prize winner ElBaradei arrives at
50th Vienna Opera Ball with wife (Photo: AP)
With political unrest happening in Egypt, the epicenter of anti-Mubarak rhetoric has come from Mohamed ElBaradei. But what connection does he have to opera? As a young man, he traveled to New York City as a junior diplomat and while getting a doctoral degree decided to expand his horizons. He attended baseball games, learned about modern art and got himself a subscription to the opera. Political voices seem to think once Hosni Mubarak is overthrown that ElBaradei will run for office. Certainly this would mean more democracy for the region, but could it also promote the arts? It would certainly be interesting to see what kind of musical treatment Verdi would produce based on the current Egyptian uprising. Did we mention that ElBaradei's wife is named Aida? How very operatic.

What could Katherine Jenkins have to do with all of this? Find out after the jump.

Mohamd ElBaradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 in a ceremony that took place in Oslo, Norway. Entertainer Katherine Jenkins performed "L'Amore sei tu" (aka "I Will Always Love You") and "One Fine Day" (aka "Un bel di vedremo") for the crowd. See the performance here.

"Mohamed ElBaradei, a 68-year-old former head of the United Nations body that enforces a key nuclear arms treaty, is emerging as an unlikely pivotal figure in the bid to force President Hosni Mubarak to resign. On Sunday, in Cairo, as protesters gathered for the sixth day, ElBaradei, sporting his signature clunky glasses and gray mustache, yelled slogans through a bullhorn. ElBaradei’s upbringing and career helped prepare him for a role at such a crucial moment. His father, a human rights lawyer who headed the Egyptian Bar Association, tangled with Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s second president. ElBaradei followed in his father’s footsteps, earning a law degree at the University of Cairo in 1962. Two years later, he joined the Egyptian diplomatic service, helping work out the legal dimensions of the Camp David Accords in 1979. He also worked at the UN mission in New York, where he earned a doctorate in international law at New York University and developed a passion for the opera and the city’s basketball team, the Knicks."

"In New York, where I was posted as a junior diplomat, a whole new world was there for me, and I was ready with an open mind to take it all in. I decided to take time off to do a doctoral degree, taking advantage of a scholarship I had earned while doing my Master's part time. This was against the advice of my 'wise' colleagues and friends, who could not for the life of them understand why I should leave the easy life of the foreign service and go back to living in a dorm on a shoe string budget. Along with my studies, I immersed myself fully in the 'new world,' trying to learn and understand as much as I could about the many things I was not exposed to in Egypt. I got myself a cheap subscription to the opera, went to baseball games, learned about modern art - which became one of my passions - and more importantly was eager to get to know and understand the many different people that inhabited this melting pot of a city. In short, I honed my skills, and broadened my experience. 'Perhaps one important lesson I learned from this time is that there is no ultimate truth, no black or white, but mostly a vast grey area that continues to evolve, as we keep trying to understand the world and ourselves. Maybe the only ultimate truth is that we are all part of one human family with shared core values. We should all be proud of our roots, our identity and culture, but we should always remember that our hopes, our fears, our sense of justice and our longing for freedom are common to us all. What unites us is much more than what divides us. And the sooner we realize this, the better off we are.'

"ElBaradei was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. He was one of five children of Mostafa ElBaradei, an attorney who headed the Egyptian Bar Association and often found himself at odds with the regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. ElBaradei's father was also a supporter of democratic rights in Egypt, supporting a free press and a legal system that was independent. ElBaradei is married to Aida El-Kachef, an early childhood teacher. They have two children: a daughter, Laila—who is a lawyer, lives in London, and is married to Neil Pizey, an investment banker—and a son, Mostafa, who is an IT manager living in Cairo. They also have one granddaughter, Maya. ElBaradei has family living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. ElBaradei speaks Arabic, English, French and German. ElBaradei earned a Bachelor's degree in law from the University of Cairo in 1962, followed by a DEA degree in International law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and a J.S.D. in International Law at the New York University School of Law in 1974. His diplomatic career began in 1964 in the Ministry of External Affairs, where he served in the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and in Geneva, in charge of political, legal, and arms control issues. From 1974 to 1978, he was a special assistant to the Foreign Minister. In 1980, he became a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Program at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. From 1981 to 1987, he was also an Adjunct Professor of International Law at New York University School of Law. In 1984, ElBaradei became a senior staff member of the IAEA Secretariat, serving as the Agency's legal adviser (1984 to 1993) and Assistant Director General for External Relations (1993 to 1997). ElBaradei is a current member of the International Law Association and the American Society of International Law."

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