Nowruz is the name of the Iranian New Year. It occurs each year on the vernal equinox (around March 21st) and is celebrated by Iranic peoples throughout the world. Nowruz is the holiday of spring, and people come together to celebrate light and renewal by cleaning out their homes, having bonfires, and feasting. This Nowruz, President Obama delivered a message to the people of Iran, pledging support for their dreams and aspirations and for democratic change. I think that President Obama’s words are eloquent and compelling, but they raise complicated questions about the United States’ role in the many social movements of this Arab Spring. The U.S. has decided to use force to help end the dictatorship in Libya, but can military might really have a positive effect when the U.S. relationship to the region is so fraught? Is the U.S. now obligated to use force in other countries like Bahrain and Yemen? There are no easy answers, but we must continue to ask questions. I think the coming months give teachers an amazing opportunity to have conversations with their students about the Middle East–a region rich in history and tradition where so many people are standing up and making their voices heard. Many of the protesters in Egypt last month, and in Iran last year, were youth.┬áChallenge your students to learn more about the lives and cultures of their fellow high schoolers in countries throughout the Middle East, and ask them to consider the role of the United States in democratic movements abroad.

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