Delano E. Lewis Highlights the Importance of Learning Arabic, Mandarin, and Spanish


Delano E. Lewis, former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South African, visited ARAB 102 and COM 102 courses where he highlighted the importance of learning Arabic, Mandarin, and Spanish.

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014 Delano E. Lewis, former US ambassador to the Republic of South Africa from 1999 – 2001, former president and chief executive officer of National Public Radio, and former associate director and country director for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda, visited Prof. Noura Hajjaj’s Introduction to Communication (COM 102) and Elementary Arabic II (ARAB 102) classes.

Prof. Hajjaj, who arranged the visit through Freddimir Garcia, Marist Presidential Fellow, was surprised to find out Ambassador Delano Lewis had accepted her invitation to her 8:00 class on the next day of his arrival to Marist. She reports that both her classes felt honored to be joined by the Ambassador so early and allowed them to be the first class to benefit from his great professional expertise on campus. Prof. Hajjaj noted Ambassador Lewis’ engaging personality and commented that “the entire experience was awesome and a source of inspiration for my students as well as for myself."


After being introduced, Ambassador Delano Lewis provided key information about his professional background in various leadership roles as an attorney, a business man, and a diplomat. “I can see you as potential leaders of this country and I am highly confident that you can do it and be successful," said Ambassador Lewis encouragingly to students.

In his dialogue with students at Prof. Hajjaj's class, Ambassador Lewis discussed the importance of learning new languages and how this learning process facilitates our exploration of new ways of communication with others as well as an understanding of other cultures and of how their members communicate within their contexts.  “This is how you develop your cultural awareness: by studying Arabic, Mandarin, and Spanish,” he added. “The more fluent you become in these three languages spoken world-wide, the more your cultural awareness skills will improve. We live in a global world. You will be dealing with many people from various cultures with different ways of thinking, perspectives, customs, traditions, religions, beliefs, and values. This is how you can become better communicators.” He went on to urge students to explore areas of strengths in their personalities, "This is how you stand out when you become more aware of who you are and what you are capable to accomplish as individuals at the workplace and in your life. The more you become fluent in these languages, the stronger your understanding is going to be about their cultures and ways of living. This is how you increase your cultural awareness, which is vital whether you communicate with various ethnic groups in the United States or when you travel abroad and live there. This type of cultural awareness is magnificent even when you are on a short excursion."

de Besides his emphasis on the roles of language, communication, and culture, in various relational contexts, Ambassador Delano Lewis engaged students in political communication and discussed recent and current world events such as the South African Apartheid comparing it to the civil war that has been taking place in Syria since March 2011. In his comparison, he cited the cause of conflicts like these to be a sense of superiority exercised by the minorities of both societies over the rest of the country’s population. He further explained that when a group of people exercises prejudice over others, sentiments of inferiority, inequality, and injustice lead to the rise of conflicts and eventually lead to the civil wars. “There are signs of civil war in Ukraine, so we will continue to follow up if this is the case or not,” Ambassador Lewis added.

Ambassador Delano Lewis engaged student critical thinking skills on the role of social media in the current Arab political movements, the ongoing debates about Edward Snowden, National Public Radio, and the Peace Corps.  He ended his conversation by answering student questions.  It was a great experience for students.