UConn alum shares Syrian experiences
UConn alum John Yearwood of class 1986 returned to campus Friday to tell students that, though there are many problems in the world, students can make a difference in their own unique ways.
Yearwood is the World Editor of the Miami Herald and a former political science student at UConn. His journalism career has taken him around the world, from post-Apartheid South Africa to tsunami-struck Japan and earthquake-rocked Haiti. Yearwood's experiences are extensive and varied, and he shared the best and the worst with current UConn students in his lecture "Dispatches From a World In Need of Healing."
Syria is the current disaster Yearwood worries about. The Associated Press constantly reports on civilians being killed by government forces and the growing tensions on the Turkish border.
As a man who has personally interviewed Syrian President Bashar Assad, Yearwood says 'The US military says they are hoping he will go and take his family with him. I think that is much easier said than done. I think we are in for a hard struggle in Syria."
And as the Syrian civil war unfolds before us, Yearwood wonders: how do you heal the world from all these disasters? Some such answers were found in Japan and South Africa. In Japan, Yearwood met a woman named Fuji, who saved her mother and herself from the devastating tsunami. She now spends her days helping the thousands displaced by the disaster. Yearwood also interviewed Nelson Mandela in South Africa, where the famous leader has worked to help children orphaned by AIDS.
"Forgiveness and building relationships, I thought to myself, I can't think of a better way to heal the world," said Yearwood.
That lead to Yearwood's work in Haiti. Prior to the earthquake in 2010 that devastated the impoverished country, Jeanguy Saintus led a famous dance troupe in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Yearwood visited after the earthquake and said that many of the dancers, "had lost the will to dance, and it was a condition that must not go on." Yearwood, along with a coalition of Miami community leaders, organized a charity performance in Miami for Ayikodans. The event was a financial success for the company and is becoming an annual event.
Yearwood recounted these experiences to students and teachers, including stories about interviewing Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher. Also present in the audience was his old professor, department head Maureen Croteau, listening to Yearwood's lesson in saving the world.w
"That's the whole intention of journalism, it's to go out and see, report, be fair, and make a difference in the world by doing that. That's what he's done," said Croteau.
In the end, Yearwood had one simple yet effective message for the students who went to hear his experiences. He said, "The world, as I stated, certainly is a dangerous place. Yes, it is in need of healing. But I think we can all play a part, big or small."
**Editor's Note: This piece was revised to correct inaccuracies Oct. 20, 2012.**
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