Yes he can – US Ambassador visit to NTNU
American President Barack Obama has only been in office a year but has steadfastly tackled some of the most pressing problems facing the United States, from health care reform to nuclear proliferation in Iran, the American ambassador to Norway told a gathering of NTNU students on Monday.
“He has taken on tough issues and has not shied away from tackling tough questions,” said Ambassador Barry White, Obama’s appointed ambassador to Norway.
White visited Trondheim Monday to meet with local and county officials, along with representatives from NTNU and SINTEF. He spoke after lunch to about 200 NTNU students at the Dragvoll campus. He said he saw his primary job in Norway was to improve business relationships between to two countries and “to bring people together,” including finding a way to bring more Americans to study in Norway. “I’m a strong believer in people-to-people dialogue”, he said.
Expanded Fulbright offerings
At least one aspect of White’s work will be made a little easier by the continued increase in the number of exchanges funded through the Fulbright Scholars programme, and the inauguration this year of a new programme called the Fulbright Arctic Chairs. The arctic programme sends a Norwegian arctic scientist to the United States for three months and brings an American arctic scientist to Norway for the same time period. It has been funded by with a 4-year, 6 million NOK grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The recipients of the awards for the 2010-2011 academic year have not yet been announced. White said record low levels of arctic ice in the summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009 illustrated the problems being brought on by global climate change and underscored the importance of improving humankind’s understanding of the arctic.
Students asked White about everything from Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize to the American government’s failure to close the detention camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “Guantanamo Bay is one of the most serious problems (Obama) faces,” White acknowledged. “It’s clearly an embarrassment to the United States. But what do you do with the people who are there?” White said the United States had hoped for more willingness among European nations to accept relocation of some of the detainees, but added that the reasons for their reluctance to open their doors to resettle detainees was understandable.
Nuclear proliferation biggest threat
White also identified potential nuclear proliferation in Iran as “the biggest threat to world security” and said the American government was looking forward to working with Norway on the issue. He closed his comments to the students with an exhortation that sounded more valedictory than diplomatic: “Study hard”, he said. “And go out and save the world.”
Before his appointment as ambassador, White was a successful Boston attorney and served for more than 13 years as Chairman and Managing Partner (CEO) of Foley Hoag LLP, where he was a senior partner in the firm’s business, corporate, international and government strategies practice areas. He practiced law at Foley Hoag for 40 years, and was also active as the Secretary, General Counsel and Member of the Executive Committee of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and as a Director of the Massachusetts Alliance for International Business.