On October 8 at 8:00 p.m., Fairfield University welcomed famed author Khaled Hosseini to our campus with open arms. Dr. Hosseini, who penned both “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” was brought to our campus as part of the Open VISIONS Forum, under the University’s Arts & Minds program, presented by University College.
The seats were packed in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, and the crowd was bubbling with excitement as we awaited Dr. Hosseini’s long-anticipated lecture. There was such demand for the lecture that there was a shortage of tickets for the presentation, and overflow was directed to the BCC Oak Room for a simulcast of the lecture. The event, which had been talked about for weeks, was rumored to be one of the most important and anticipated the University has hosted in the past five years, and likely was so.
The event was this year’s Jacoby-Lunin Humanitarian lecture, hosted by the Center for Judaic Studies, with the Office of the Dean of Freshmen as collegial partner. Dr. Hosseini was greeted by Dr. Phillip Eliasoph, professor of visual and performing arts, as well as Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., president. He was introduced by Dr. Ellen M. Umansky, professor of Judaic studies and director of the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center. Dr. Umansky was also on the response Q&A panel with Dr. Gita Rajan, professor of English and senior research fellow.
When Dr. Hosseini took the stage, there was a good five minutes of applause before he could begin his speech. The humble author and doctor repeatedly told the audience that he was given too much credit – he never had formal training in writing, and wrote as he was taught to, like a story teller in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the crowd was excited for this chance to listen to such an accomplished writer talk about his ideas, and all felt privileged to be in his presence.
Dr. Hosseini’s speech was engaging and significant, and he caught his audience’s interest with his stories about his own background, the background of Afghanistan, his ideas and thoughts behind his books, and his views on the state of the world today. The panel that took stage with him asked questions on his personal beliefs and background, from his position on the war in the Middle East and how he believed we should have approached helping to rebuild, to his personal ideas presented in his books, and what we as readers might expect for his future publications. Dr. Hosseini answered without straying off topic, and he presented a slideshow of images taken from his trips to Afghanistan in the past ten years.
Dr. Hosseini talked about his work with The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which provides grants and scholarships to educate and make a difference for children and families who are underprivileged in Afghanistan, and asked for the audience’s help to make a difference for those who have been left with so little.
Audience members were given the chance to ask questions, and some thought-provoking issues were raised. He shared his own experience seeing people literally living in a hole in the ground to avoid freezing to death during the harsh winter months, and the audience peppered him with their ideas and questions. Dr. Hosseini rose to each occasion offered his suggestions and personal experience, including his beliefs on the education and support of children and women of underprivileged families that are aching for help. The lecture closed with more applause, and an opportunity for a book signing; overall, an event not to be missed.
The event as a whole was not only successful for what was expected, but also in that all who attended left with new viewpoints on Afghanistan, political ideas, and Khaled Hosseini as a person and humanitarian, not just as a famed author. The University was privileged and honored to host such a speaker on campus. We all look forward to hearing more about Khaled Hosseini and his endeavors in the future, and eagerly await the release of his latest book.
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