Kate Seelye, a correspondent for National Public
Radio, applied for the Fulbright Scholar Program
hoping to strengthen ties and increase understanding
between Arab and American cultures and to improve
cooperation and interaction between the two peoples.
As a scholar in the Middle East, North Africa,
South Asia Regional Research Program, Seelye had
the unique opportunity to travel to the Middle
East and conduct research for a documentary film.
Inspired by another Fulbright grantee who did
a film project in Cairo, Seelye decided to develop
the documentary, which had long been brewing in
the back of her mind. Seelye's grant not only
allowed her to write and research her script,
but also to explore her roots.
"My father was born in Beirut and was a
diplomat for the United States specializing in
the Middle East. He spent 30 years in the Arab
world, and I felt like I needed to do the film
for him," she said.
Seelye conducted her research at both the American
University of Beirut, where her grandfather had
taught philosophy, and the Tel Aviv University's
Moshe Dayan Center. She also interviewed many
academics who specialized in her research topic
of America's mission to the Middle East and the
200 years of American-Arab relations. Even more
invaluable for Seelye was being able to interview
older Lebanese men and women about their recollections
of the U.S. role in the Arab world in the 1920s
and 1930s and Arab perceptions of U.S. efforts
during that period.
During her nine-month grant, Seelye spoke at
a UN conference about media coverage as a Palestinian
issue, guest lectured at the Moshe Dayan Center
on U.S.-Arab relations and gave an interview for
The Daily Star, a local newspaper, on the
role of American media in the Arab world. "Whatever
we can do to promote discussion and debate is
useful right now. We all need each other and we
can't afford to see the other in such black and
white terms," she said.
"That's why this documentary is very much
a personal narrative," said Seelye. "As
an American talking to other Americans, I can
take them through this region and take them through
this period and through this history and bring
them to the place we are now and help others understand
why that is."
Although Seelye is still working on funding the
production of her film, she has completed a 7
2/3-minute preview of her documentary entitled
At Home in the Garden of Eden. Seelye intentionally
focuses more on family and the U.S. relationship
to the Arab region than on the Israeli-Arabic
conflict. Seelye said, "Most Americans don't
realize we have a long relationship in the Arab
world. We have been working with Arabs for hundreds
of years and the sentiments toward America are
really very positive."
Seelye said the Fulbright Program enabled her
to refine her views and understanding of the U.S.-Israeli-Arab
relationship. She hopes her documentary will serve
to inform Americans about their own history and
role in the Middle East.
us if you would like to submit your own story
exchange is the most significant current project
designed to continue the process of humanizing
mankind to the point, we would hope, that
nations can learn to live in peace"
--J. William Fulbright