The hot-headed outbursts that Iran’s leaders hope CNN will carry to a worldwide audience are often attempts to direct US foreign policy towards a more informed approach in the region. Last night, however, a group of Iranian-Americans held a joyful event at the Stanford Faculty Club that will one day dwarf the gesticulations of Iran’s leaders in its impact on US foreign as well as domestic policy. Here too there were cameras but this time operated by amateurs--proud parents of scholarship awardees videotaping their children. As a parade of high achieving Iranian college students spoke their zeal and drive into the microphone, it became more and more obvious that these young scholars will soon join the ranks of American decision makers. These Iranians will earn their influence on America by contributing to her civilization.
And when they do become Surgeons General, Supreme Court judges, Cabinet members, senators, and CEOs of corporations with clout, they will take with them their love for the culture that gave the world Hafez and Khayyam. This is real human history, not the manufactured kind that comes in dramatic events. The influence accumulated is the slow result of dedicated work by foresighted people. And the price is not billions of dollars spent on weapons of deterrence, or the moral cost of supporting violent groups to maintain leverage on the US. In comparison the price is insignificant. The Iranian Scholarship Fund is the smartest money Iranians have ever invested in the advancement of their culture. And the moral factor is a huge payoff, not a cost.
As with most fundraiser galas the speakers were often drowned out by the sound of forks on plates and sociable party chatter. Hafez, however ran chills up our spines when he spoke through one of the students reciting a verse. Characteristically, it wasn’t what Hafez said that gave us that famous Hafez moment; it was how he uses sound to reveal meaning. The master let it be known last night that his words shine with fresh beauty when spoken in a slightly Americanized Persian accent.