Student Spotlight on Saleh El Machnouk MC/MPA 2014

November 1, 2013
The Citizen, HKS student newspaper

Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students hail from a range of countries and backgrounds, but all share an abiding commitment to public service. Saleh El Machnouk MC/MPA 2014 is one such example. Having lived in Lebanon, El Machnouk spent time as a journalist, teacher, and political activist before coming to the Kennedy School. He is profiled in a "Student Spotlight" interview in the Oct. 28, 2013 issue of the HKS student newspaper The Citizen.

Below is a selected portion of the interview.

Q: What did you do and whom did you tell first when you got accepted to HKS?

El Machnouk: Ah, funny story. It was around 2am and I couldn’t sleep – insomnia is quite a regular occurrence for me in Beirut with all the stress. So for lack of a better alternative, I went to the computer, checked my email and there it was, congratulations! I yelled really loudly. First I was disturbed that I couldn’t really tell anyone – it was 2am – then I decided everyone had to wake up and cheer with me. I think I told my mom first. She’s my neighbor so I went up to her apartment and we did a celebration dance.

Q: What do you miss most about Beirut?

El Machnouk: I try hard not to think about it. I miss Beirut so much. Everything about it. Ok maybe not the bombs and the fighting, but everything else. My family and friends, of course, I miss the energy, the passion, and the sense of purpose that comes with being involved in politics. The hundreds of activists I’ve shared my life with over the years, my social life. Oh and I miss our coffee. American coffee is incomprehensible to me.

Q: What are your three proudest achievements?

El Machnouk: First is definitely leading a movement to support the Syrian revolution very early on when it was still a ludicrous thing to do. Second is being here, growing up I was a terrible student and gave my parents a really hard time. It took a lot of persistence and I’m proud of that. And last but not least, this week I decided that I will no longer print any of my readings, and I am reading everything virtually. It’s working! It’s good for the environment and I no longer feel archaic.

Q: What are you hoping to do once you graduate?

El Machnouk: A million things, of course. I want to create an online media platform for politics and news targeting the younger generation. I want to advocate for and promote democracy, human rights, and rule of law in the Arab world. I want to serve my country and the cause so many Lebanese have sacrificed for through my political action group. But most importantly I need to get focused and decide which am I going to work on first! read more

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Saleh El Machnouk MC/MPA 2014

Saleh El Machnouk MC/MPA 2014

"I want to create an online media platform for politics and news targeting the younger generation."