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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 12, 2024

No conflict of interest for Powell at Tufts

The controversy surrounding Colin Powell's speech at Tufts last November questions the ethical judgment of one of America's most respected military and civilian leaders. Allegations made in The Jerusalem Post - that the deputy prime minister of Lebanon and former Tufts trustee Issam Fares paid Powell $200,000 to participate in Fares' lecture series in an attempt to buy influence - are unfairly accusatory and will rightfully have little impact on Powell's confirmation as President-elect George W. Bush's secretary of state. Fares' response to the Post report, however, was severely undiplomatic, couched in anti-Zionist and possibly anti-Semitic sentiment, and unbecoming a member of the Tufts community.

Although the exact amount Fares, through Tufts, paid Powell for the lecture remains undisclosed, all parties involved estimate the honorarium at or around $80,000, far less than the Post figure; it was generous remuneration for a day's work, but not out of the ordinary for a Powell speech, and comparable to that paid to past participants in the Fares series. Furthermore, at the time of the lecture, Powell held no government position, and his presumed secretary of state appointment was far from official. There is no doubt that Issam Fares the businessman and Issam Fares the politician

value ties with American government officials. But Issam Fares the philanthropist, former Tufts trustee, and father of Fares Fares (LA '93), has been unselfishly generous to this university; it would be hard to identify an ulterior political motive for the Fares Equine Research Center at Tufts' veterinary school, one of two buildings at Tufts that bears the prime minister's name. "In my association with Tufts, I hope to be helpful to Tufts, not to derive benefit for myself," Fares told the Daily before the Powell lecture.

Past speeches also give little merit to The Jerusalem Post's implication that the Fares Lecture Series is a conduit for the Lebanese geopolitical agenda. Speakers have included politicians Margaret Thatcher and George Mitchell, who are rarely accused of holding an anti-Israel bias. Powell himself hardly touched on the Middle East in his speech, and when he did, the general affirmed the US commitment to Israel.

But Fares' indignant response to the Post article was not beyond reproach. "If the Zionist lobby or those revolving in its orbit are displeased with this relationship, it's their own business. Anyway, envy is a killer," Fares wrote in a statement from Beirut. Tufts celebrates internationalism and should caution its various spokespeople from issuing spiteful statements about any nation or people around the globe. Fares' words were suspiciously defensive and spiteful, and while not issued on Tufts' stationary, Fares was a former trustee speaking about his Tufts affiliation and about a Tufts event. In other words, he was speaking for Tufts, and the University should respectfully, but publicly, distance itself from his comments.