Professor talks Egypt-U.S. relations
UF history professor and author Matthew Jacobs speaks to students about Egypt at the Emerson Alumni Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Elise Giordano, Alligator

The politics of the Middle East will never be the same again.

That’s the message UF history professor Matthew Jacobs brought to a handful of students and guests, as well as an online audience, Tuesday at the Emerson Alumni Hall.

The lecture, titled “After Egypt’s Days of Rage: U.S. Relations With a Changed Middle East,” is the first in a new lecture series, “Hear and Now—Student Perspective.”

Sponsored by the UF Alumni Association, the lectures are designed to help students better understand the nuances of current events. Each lecture is live-streamed online and is available after at alumni.ufl.edu/outreach.

Jacobs began with a brief overview of the Egyptian president’s history and told how Mubarak came to power in 1981. He showed the ties between the U.S. and Mubarak’s government and outlined the political and economic investments of American leaders that could have swayed them to give support.

However, as the protests continued, it became clear the issue was one of democratic freedoms and a people’s right to govern, something the U.S. government touts and could use to help improve its image in the region.

“It’s not often that you get the chance to hit the reset button,” Jacobs said.

He said the important thing for the U.S. to do now is  have a keen sense about its power and resources while showing general support for the civility of the new government. The U.S., he said, should focus less on the nature of emerging political groups and more on supporting the growth of an array of options.

“I think (the Middle East) is already changed. The question is, ‘How much?’” he said. “Clearly the populations are not going to be cowed as they had been recently. … It’s people who make revolutions and that’s crucial to recognize.”

Erica Ngoenha, a political science junior who attended, said she’s been captivated by media reports of the revolution and wanted a clearer understanding of the country’s past, how it got here and where it might be going.

She said she hopes our country can help them to move forward politically and economically, to help them rebuild and bring back some stability.

“I think it’s great the Egyptian people have had their voices heard,” she said.

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