Jordan’s King Embraces Legacy for Middle East Peace

October 15, 1999
Miranda Daniloff and Jesús Mena

In his first major address to an American university audience, King Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein spoke of carrying on his father’s legacy as a catalyst to peace in the Middle East. King Abdullah ascended to the throne after the death of his father King Hussein eight months ago.

Jordan has become the "main pillar" of his father’s dream of peace, he said in his address at the Kennedy School’s ARCO Forum. And like his father, the young monarch said he hopes Jordan will remain a symbol of stability in the region. Jordan signed a peace pact with Israel in 1994. A successful conclusion to the peace process that his father initiated is one of his main goals, he said.

He pointed out that when "the Harvard graduate whose name this school bears, received an honorary degree from Yale, he graciously said, ‘I now have the best of two worlds.’ If Harvard graduates are capable of accepting Yale degrees, then anything is possible, even peace in the Middle East."

Economic stability is central to long-term peace in the region, he said. While Jordan is doing its part to reform its economy, including passing laws aimed at lowering Jordan’s inflation and improving the investment climate, the former military officer made an appeal to the international community. He said the region’s "economic stability should be placed on the agenda of the world community."

King Abdullah took a variety of questions from the audience ranging from investment in technology, to the role of women in Jordanian politics. When asked what advice he would give the next US President on foreign policy toward Jordan, he paused and smiled saying, "I don’t know if I should thank you for that question."

He replied that because of changes in the US administration every four or eight years, it was difficult to propose long term solutions. American political campaigns often engage in the exchange of slogans to please certain constituencies. That is why it is often best for international leaders to allow the elections to occur and wait until "the dust settles" before pursuing foreign policy strategies, he said.

While introducing the monarch, Harvard President, Neil Rudenstine announced the establishment of an endowed professorship at the Kennedy School to honor the late King Hussein. The Hussein professorship will advance teaching, outreach, and research and will "build bridges among policymakers, scholars and business leaders everywhere."

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