Connecticut native Andrew Slater served three tours of duty in Iraq as a U.S. Army infantry and special forces officer. He came home. But then he went back to the country he fought in.
Slater now teaches English at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani. That's in the Kurdish part of the country, which has been more peaceful that the rest of Iraq, but even that area has been touched by the violence that has plagued the country this year.
Slater has his students read Faulkner, Melville and speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. He joins Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti to discuss his students, who are the future of Iraq.
Interview Highlights: Andrew Slater
On relating to his students
"When my students tell me that they grew up in Baghdad, I was there when they were 10 years old, so I know the neighborhoods that they came from, I know what their family life was like living in Baghdad during that period of time. You know, I know what they suffered through. It's not an act of imagination, it's an act of memory for me."
On how Iraq is doing
"I have a guarded optimism. When I came here in 2006, it was a very bleak time. It really felt like Iraq was heading into a black hole, and it seems like it's kind of come out of that. But my feeling is if Iraq slides back into violence, it's not because of the people, it's because of the political leadership. I know the Iraqi people are brave and smart and they're capable of reconciliation. It's at the political leadership level that the problems happen."
On applying American literature to Iraqi life
"The best is when I see that they connect how things are in Iraq with how they are in a different time period and a different culture. They kind of see, contemporary to their own lives, how these issues and ideas are relevant to them. ... With 'As I Lay Dying' in particular, thinking about the idea of things that could be both hideous and ugly and beautiful at the same time."
- Andrew Slater, served three tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, and now teaches at the American University of Iraq.
This segment aired on December 13, 2013.
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