A government official in a country that is an ally of the United States explained how the nations are similar and different when he addressed local high school students Tuesday morning.
Akel Biltaji, a senator in Jordan's Upper House of Parliament, said he was visiting the U.S. at a time when everyone is talking about education, and he is in Tiffin to get to know America's education system. He talked to students in entrepreneurship, government and U.S. history classes at Columbian High School Tuesday morning.
"I was told you're all top guns," he said.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Akel Biltaji, a senator in Jordan’s Upper House of Parliament, speaks to students in an entrepreneurship class in Columbian High School’s cafeteria Tuesday morning.
Paul Sittason Stark, Heidelberg's campus minister and director of campus ministry and religious life, introduced Biltaji at Columbian and told him it was a wonderful gift to have him there.
"You have an accomplished businessman here," Stark told students.
Heidelberg University coordinated Biltaji's visit and hosted his keynote address Tuesday evening. According to information from the university, he was appointed to the Senate about five years ago. He serves as chairman of the tourism and heritage house committee and is a member of the education, culture and media committee.
Biltaji, who initially knew "yes" and "no" in English and now speaks it fluently, told Columbian students Jordan is an ally of the U.S.
The U.S., he said, is bringing schools, sewer systems, water connections and health programs to his country and is making its roads safe.
When it comes to national and foreign policies, he said, the countries may disagree on the Middle East, "but, by God, we both had our 9/11s."
While the U.S. was attacked Sept. 11, 2001, Jordan was attacked by suicide bombers Nov. 9, 2005. But Jordanians list the date first and then the month, so their attacks also were on 9/11. Biltaji said bombs detonated at three hotels simultaneously and 67 people were killed.
"We have bonds," he said of Americans and Jordanians.
When questioned about his goals, Biltaji, 70, said he plans to do exactly what he was doing Tuesday. If officials keep ignoring small communities, it means they are sticking to areas such as Washington, D.C., New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said.
"That's not America," he said.
After the presentation, Biltaji said he saw a positive spirit from the first letter he received about his visit, to his first impression of his hotel, to Heidelberg, to Columbian and to eating at a local restaurant. There is a positive energy in people in Tiffin, and people are at peace with themselves, he said.
Biltaji, who visits the U.S. several times a year, said he would like to visit Tiffin again. Today, he is scheduled to attend the Rotary Club of Tiffin's meeting before leaving for Detroit.