The 3rd Annual Anita Houston Memorial Lecture

Neil MacFarquhar

“Happy Birthday From Hizbollah: The Case For Change in the Middle East. Do the US and the UN Have a Role?”

Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 4:00 PM at New Canaan Library – Cosponsored by the United Nations Commitee of New Canaan and New Canan Library


Alice Knapp, Executive Director, New Canaan Library

Dr. Charlotte Brown
UN Committee 
Katherine Houston Bradford
Houston Family

Introduction of Speaker
Pete Runnette
Co-Chairman, UN Committee

Neil MacFarquhar
“Happy Birthday From Hizbollah: The Case For Change in the Middle East. Do the US and the UN Have a Role?”

Questions and Answers

Many thanks to the generosity of the donors to this lecture series.
Katherine Houston Bradford
Marianna Houston
Jean Houston
Andre F. Houston

Neil MacFarquhar – Journalist and Author

Since his boyhood in Qadhafi’s Libya, Neil MacFarquyhar has developed a counterintuitive sense that the Middle East – despite all the bloodshed in its contemporary history, like the recent eruption in Gaza – is aa place of warmth, humanity and generous eccentricity. He explains: “As a correspondent I came to see all the violent news from the region as a kind of fence. The bloodshed and constant upheaval that capture the most attention have become the barriers limiting our perspective on the Middle East. I know just how fascinating and exhilarating conflict can be…Winston Churchill famously said that the most exhilarating thing in life was being shot at with no effect. But there was more to life. I didn’t want to write only about Iraq or the West Bank or the latest terrorist bombing. Much as violence had the potential to change the region, there was so much more there and after a while those stories felt endlessly repetitive. I found the process of trying to understand the gap between the outside image and the internal reality much more engaging, even exhilarating in its own way.”

Neil MacFarquhar served as New york Times Cairo bureau chief from 2001 through 20054 and is now its UN Bureau Chief. His Middle East expertise predates his Cairo assignment: he grew up in Libya and covered the region for the AP< including stints in Israel and Kuwait. An Arabic speaker, his understanding of the region has led to appearances ranging from national television news to the Tribeca Film Festival He is also the author of a novel, the Sand Cafe, about Gulf War correspondents marooned in a Saudi hotel.

The United Nations Committee of New Canaan

The Committee was started in 1952 in response to President Eisenhower’s appeal to local communities to honor the US-UN relationship on the date in October (the 24th) when, in 1945, the UN was founded. The Committee has recognized the date annually, raising the UN flag at Town Hall on October 24 each year. It presents speakers throughout the year on international topics. Recent talks were given by David Rohde on his kidnapping by the Taliban, by Ahmed Rashid on Afghanistan, and Margaret Catley-Carlson on Water. The Committee’s Aid Afghanistan School Project (2004-2008) was dedicated to funding a two-year “catch-up” school curriculum for Afghan girls denied access to education during the Taliban rule. That effort included an exchange of photographs taken by our Afghan students and students at NCHS which were exhibited at the Carriage Barn in 2006 in conjunction with the New Canaan Society for the Arts and Voices of September 11. Building on that effort, five generous donors provided funds for computers for the Kabul schools of our Afghan partner, one in particular, Pete moyer, donated tuition at the American University of Kabul for an AAE graduate.

Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE)

AAE was founded in 1996 by Hassina Sherjan, our partner in the Aid Afghanistan School Project. Hassina left Afghanistan as a refugee in 1979 and returned even before the initial defeat of the Taliban, to participate in the construction of her country. She has since founded many schools for girls as well as a textile factory to employ Afghans (

Model United Nations Club, New Canaan High School

The Model UN Club at NCHS provides students an opportunity to explore the challenges, the history and the many humanitarian functions of the United Nations. Eac year students with a strong interest in international relations and issues act as delegates from the nations of the world as they debate current political issues. The NCHS Club was formed in 2003, and has grown to its current roster of 85 active students. Led by three faculty advisors, and positioned as an “academic sport” they attend weekly meetings before or after high school to prepare for upcoming (usually 3-4 day) conferences. This year those include high scohol hosted conferences (at Horace Mann and at home vs. New Fairfield) and college hosted conferences at Brown University, Princeton, U. of Pennsylvania, and Cornell. A booster club has been organized to help the students with fundraising activities to defray travel expenses. The Club’s goals include the promotion of a world view and the development of skills in research, critical thinking, persuasion, collaboration and leadership.