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      Philadelphia Speaker Series

      Robin Wright Enthralled the Audience at the Kimmel Center in January

      students with robin wright

      Meeting Robin Wright

      Widener University students Mac Shailey and Trevor Piotti meet Robin Wright at the Philadelphia Speaker Series in January.

      The Philadelphia Speakers Series, presented by Widener University, had another stellar night on Jan. 22 when Robin Wright—a powerhouse, award-winning writer and lecturer—took the stage.

      Wright is currently a contributing writer for The New Yorker and a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. During her decades long, illustrious career, she reported from more than 140 countries on six continents, covering numerous wars and revolutions.

      She is an expert on the Middle East, especially Islam and Iran, and the author of several books on the subject. She was a diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and many others, and has also been a fellow at the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Yale, Duke, Dartmouth, and the University of California.

      Wright won the hearts of the Philadelphia audience with her opening words: "GO EAGLES!" She is a huge sports fan thanks to her upbringing. Her father wanted a son to share his love of sports, but he had only daughters. So he dragged Wright, his oldest child, to every game and sporting event.

      When Wright went to college, she joined the student paper to write a sports article as a joke to get a little revenge on her father. Prior to that, she had no interest in journalism. That little joke changed her life and began her journalism career.

      Wright talked about how she "covered every Middle Eastern war, uprising, and revolution since 1973." She was present at many notable political transitions, including black uprisings in South Africa and the end of communism in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union.

      Wright found she had a knack for arriving just at the outbreak of an uprising. Her dad even joked that he "didn't dare go to Bermuda with her" because a revolution would be sure to ensue.

      During her lecture, Wright was cautiously optimistic about our future with regard to ISIS and the Middle East. She noted that we now "celebrate" the fall of the Islamic state caliphate—the city of Raqqa—and remember that it only held reign for "3 years, 3 months, and 3 weeks." At its peak, the whole Islamic state was just the size of Indiana.

      Terrorist groups like ISIS do not last long. They simply cannot sustain their rule. Wright said: ISIS is not over, but the worst is over.

      The worst appears to be over with ISIS in part because of the region's large, young literate population. In Iran in the 1970s, for example, there was a huge baby boom. The overpopulation—it doubled from 30 to 60 million—led to a need for unorthodox family planning, and so suddenly birth control was free and encouraged.

      Unorthodoxy spread from birth control to fashion and technology. The young, educated population of the Middle East is willing to engage in protests and speak out against oppressive regimes. They are tech savvy and digitally connected to the wider world. They are not willing to lose their freedoms, and so Wright believes we have hope for peace.

      The Philadelphia Speaker Series continues on Monday, Feb. 26 with a campus visit from author, television host and European travel guide Rick Steves. He will speak and take questions on campus at 1 p.m. in Webb Room at University Center. Those who plan to attend should RSVP with Candi Caporale through


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