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Nobel Laureate ElBaradei joins Fletcher

Published: Monday, December 9, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 9, 2013 09:12

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on Dec. 4 announced that Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general emeritus of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and co-recipient of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, will join the Fletcher School community as the Nobel-Laureate-in-Residence next fall. 

According to Michael Glennon, professor of international law at the Fletcher School and former employee at the IAEA, ElBaradei will be a great asset to the university during his time on campus. 

“I think it will be a tremendous benefit to the university on so many levels to have someone so knowledgeable about international law and proliferation, the Arab Spring, conflict resolution [and] events in Egypt,” Glennon said. “He’s almost a whole faculty rolled up in one.”

ElBaradei will stay for a period of three months, during which time he will likely engage with members of the Tufts community by sharing his knowledge, according to Academic Dean of the Fletcher School Ian Johnstone.

“I know he plans to do some big public lectures and also many smaller gatherings with Fletcher students and other Tufts University students,” he said. 

Johnstone added that ElBaradei may, at the Fletcher School’s encouragement, decide to teach a course and speak as a guest lecturer in current courses. 

“We’re probably going to press him to do as much of that as he’s willing to do, and he’s told us that he loves being here,” Johnstone said. “His experience here in the past has been very positive, so I think he’s looking forward to the chance to just gather in fairly informal settings with the Fletcher students.” 

ElBaradei led the IAEA, an organization that promotes peace and security in the field of nuclear technologies, from 1997 to 2009, Johnstone said. During this time, the Nobel Committee honored ElBaradei for his work in preventing nuclear energy from being used for military purposes. 

“Those were years in which, among other things, the crisis in Iraq unfold [as well as] the crises in Iran and North Korea, so he was very much involved in all of those things,” Johnstone said. 

Glennon emphasized ElBaradei’s important role in the IAEA’s efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. ElBaradei, he said, was fair and unbiased while examining evidence for weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. 

“I think that history speaks for itself,” Glennon said. “[ElBaradei] was willing to speak truth to power and let the chips fall where they may. He stuck with the evidence and didn’t try to slant it one way or the other ... We were all very lucky that someone like [ElBaradei] was in the right place at the right time.”

After leaving the IAEA, ElBaradei began a short career in Egyptian politics. Johnstone explained that ElBaradei was considered a potential candidate for the presidency following former president of Egypt Mohamed Morsi’s removal. ElBaradei, however, declined to take the role. ElBaradei also served as interim vice president of Egypt for a month before resigning when the nation’s security suffered. 

“He’s had some very interesting experience in a very interesting and important part of the world,” Johnstone said. “So, for that reason, he’s a very exciting person to have associated with this year.”

According to Johnstone, ElBaradei’s connections to the Fletcher School span at least 10 years. In 2003, ElBaradei visited the university as a Commencement speaker and expressed his fondness for the school. 

“We do remember him mentioning at some point in the past that it would be fun to visit Fletcher, and we decided to pursue that actively,” Johnstone said. 

After meeting with Dean of the Fletcher School Admiral James Stavridis, ElBaradei quickly agreed to spend time on campus, Johnstone added. 

Glennon, who encouraged university officials to strengthen ties with the Nobel laureate, explained that he met ElBaradei in 1998 and shortly after agreed to work for him at the IAEA, based in Vienna.

“I was immensely impressed with the IAEA,” Glennon said. “It was a model of administrative probity and integrity. People at the IAEA loved working for [ElBaradei]. They took great pride in the agency.” 

After taking a job at the Fletcher School, he stayed in touch with ElBaradei, Glennon said. During a visit to campus, ElBaradei agreed to serve as a guest lecturer during one of Glennon’s courses. 

“The students loved him, and we were all sorry that he had to return to Vienna so quickly,” he said. “But the experience left all of us here at Fletcher wanting to see more of him ... [W]hen the opportunity came up again to have a visitor of his status, he was a logical person that we all turned to, given our relationship with him.”

Both Glennon and Johnstone expressed excitement about having ElBaradei on campus. 

“He’s an extremely approachable and unpretentious fellow,” Glennon said. “At the same time, he’s a prominent international legal scholar.”

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