Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the Ensembles of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music perform in a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, along with fellow OEF veteran Patricia Austin. Performers of the ANIM included children from the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), an Afghan-led orphanage program with whom I have been a sponsor since 2006, and who many of you helped with cash donations and word-of-mouth support. One of ANIM’s goals is to take in orphans and disadvantaged children and train them as professional musicians, in addition to their broader goal of ensuring that Afghanistan’s musical heritage makes a permanent return to the country.
It is easy to focus on the many things in Afghanistan that haven’t been going well, but it is also astonishing to sit in Carnegie Hall, listen to amazing and clever arrangements of Afghan traditional songs and classical music scored for orchestra and Afghan traditional instruments, and be part of a packed audience that included many Afghan-Americans who were cheering, clapping along with Afghan patriotic and traditional songs, and who were so engaged with affection and admiration for the amazing children performing on stage. There are successes in Afghanistan. And it is because the U.S. and the international community, despite our often flawed approaches, have offered help that has truly, genuinely made a difference for so many people in Afghanistan.
This was a night for celebrating the successes of recent years, honoring the friendship forged between the U.S. and Afghanistan, and taking pride in these amazing girls and boys who are the future of their country. And it was a night to reflect and hope for a lasting peace to take root in Afghanistan.
A message from Afghanistan’s Minister of Education appeared in the program: “Music is in our past, our present, and our future. Tonight I ask you to reflect on the importance of standing by and supporting Afghanistan as we Afghans lead the way towards a more glorious future for our nation, a future that will be based on the religious and cultural values bequeathed to us by our past, a future that will be made possible by the hard work of the present, and a future in which every Afghan girl and boy may have the opportunity to study music, live together despite their differences, enjoy their common values, and contribute to the world community.”
Peace is possible only when people like us believe in it and support it. I, for one, am a believer. May these children have long, prosperous, and beautiful lives sharing Afghanistan’s music with the world.