Eyewitness IraqGAMBIER, Ohio (October 12, 2004) When John Agresto arrived in Baghdad in late 2003, he was confident that he could fulfill his mission to rebuild the country's university system. He was overly optimistic.
Agresto, a former political science professor at Kenyon, is the United States's former senior advisor overseeing the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. He will share insights about his experience in a talk entitled "Eyewitness Iraq: Myths and Realities" on Monday, October 25, at 8:00 p.m. in Rosse Hall.
"I'm a neoconservative who's been mugged by reality," Agresto told the Washington Post in June of 2004. "We can't deny there were mistakes, things didn't work out the way we wanted. We have to be honest with ourselves."
In his quest to set a course for the future of higher education in Iraq, Agresto found that his visits to campuses were dangerous and infrequent. Threats by insurgents hampered progress. Mortar attacks on the occupation authority's Baghdad headquarters didn't help. Funding was problematic.
Agresto is considered to be a candid spokesman among the staff members of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American agency responsible for the civil administration of Iraq. At the time of his appointment, even critics of the American effort to reform higher education in Iraq were pleased that an academic scholar outside of the U.S. government would take charge.
Agresto is the former president of St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and he served as deputy chairman at the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Ronald Reagan. He is also the author of several political science books.