Tuesday, January 30th marked the 56th birthday of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and was quite an exceptional day for the University of Jordan and Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II School of International Studies. UJ and the School had the distinct honor of receiving His Majesty King Abdullah II who came to meet with the students. About thirty graduate and undergraduate students gathered around the King, with the attendance of the UJ President and the school dean, and exchanged ideas on a variety of national, regional, and international topics, in a frank and cordial manner. His Majesty’s visit to UJ demonstrates not only His Majesty’s support and interest in the welfare of young Jordanians, but also specific ways and means of empowering them.
His Majesty and the attendees discussed a host of issues, including governance, democracy, political parties, quality education, unemployment, Jerusalem, Mideast peace, and engagement of the youth in public affairs. His Majesty called on the young people to be proactive and help the country push for development and change.
Responses and comments on the meeting were immediate and positive soon after it was over. His Majesty expressed via twitter his satisfaction and pleasure over the meeting with UJ students and tweeted:
“Our Jordanian youth are excelling at all levels with their awareness and bright ideas. I was delighted today to meet students of the University of Jordan in an enriching dialogue that addressed various local and international issues, which strengthened my faith that the youth of the homeland are the pillars of its future and capable of bearing the responsibility of continuing building and modernisation.”
Following the visit, UJ President Prof. Azmi Muhafazah also posted on his Facebook page: “The University of Jordan was honored with the visit of His Majesty King Abdullah II on his birthday where he met with a group of students. His Majesty conversed with them on regional and international affairs, including the Syrian crisis and the Syrian refugees issue, decision to transfer the American embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinian issue, and Jordan's foreign relations. Discussions also touched on his Majesty's Discussion Papers which aim to initiate a national dialogue on various political, economic, educational and social issues.”
“The King expressed his delight at the meeting and expressed his satisfaction with what was discussed and encouraged students to participate positively and interact with the various issues of the country, whether political, economic or social. The students were thrilled and expressed that outwardly,” Mahafzah also added.
Prof. Abdullah Al-Nagrash, Dean of Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II School of International Studies, said that “the meeting is an encouragement for the youth to engage more in the political process and the building of their homeland.” He added that “[y]oung people are the politicians of the future and constitute the majority of the population in Jordan.”
Students present at the meeting also commented on the impact His Majesty had on them and the significance of the visit. Roa Momani, a PhD student at the School and one of the students who participated in the meeting commented on how well the discussion went: “His Majesty insisted on offering all those present a chance to speak, the meeting was estimated to last no more than 45 minutes, but it went for about an hour and a half.”
“As a young Jordanian citizen the dialogue with His Majesty gave me hope and a positive boost for the future,” she added.
“His Majesty is aware of all the facts and he is counting on young Jordanian people and their will to lead Jordan in the future,” commented Muhannad Hadid, who is studying for a bachelor degree in Political Science. He also added that the meeting was incredibly transparent and open, “for me it was more comfortable than when meeting with state officials.”
Mahmoud Wekhyan added that: “His Majesty King Abdullah II provided students a platform to share their perspectives and beliefs with regard to social, political and economic situations in Jordan. The session was a source of motivation for our youth to persevere towards the betterment of their community.”
The surprise visit also received a tremendous amount of news coverage in the days that followed. The Jordan News Agency Petra wrote: “The dialogue dealt with economic and political issues, and others related to administrative reform and the rule of law, as well as the important role of youth in the process of nation-building, reform and achievement.” The news agency concluded that “The discussion also touched on developments related to the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem, and efforts to reach political solutions to the region's crises.”
Whilst The Jordan Times, an English-language daily, also elaborated on the visit from a number of perspectives: “King Abdullah repeated throughout the conversation that it is the youth who know well what the country wants and where it should be going, stressing that he feels relieved whenever he has a talk with young people.”… “He called on the young men and women to keep in touch with his office, reiterating that in this way, they would be a great help to His Majesty as he pushed for reform and changes to the status quo.”
In a press statement, President of the Senate Faisal Al Fayez, hailed the various aspects discussed during His Majesty's meeting with the students. He said that His Majesty stressed his pride and concern for the students and the youth and his belief in their ability to continue the process of building and modernization, in addition, to safeguarding and strengthening public freedoms within the framework of moral and social responsibility.
Journalist Mohammad Khair Rawashdeh in his article in Al-hayat, an Arabic daily newspaper, focused on the fact that His Majesty confirmed that the economic challenges facing the country have in part resulted from its political stands. In his commentary article, published in a number of news outlets, UJ Professor and Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University, Prof. Musa Shtewi, described the meeting as ‘warm, frank and transparent’. He added that “despite the spontaneity of dialogue, it was rich in ideas and meanings that must to be recognized and analyzed. Most important was urging young people to take the initiative, politically and economically.”
Finally, His Majesty’s visit is a testimony to the commitment and dedication that both His Majesty and the University of Jordan have towards the Jordanian community and its students. UJ offers its students various opportunities to create an impact and engage in national discussions focused on the political, social and economic development of the country.