Journalist shares international perspective with students

University of Maine alumnus David Lamb visited campus last Monday, Sept. 21 to hold a lecture for students and faculty about his experiences as an international correspondent.

In his lecture, “The State of the World: A Personal Perspective,” Lamb spoke to a crowd of around 90 about life during wartime and the conditions that provoke it, Islam and terrorism.

Lamb graduated from UMaine in 1962 and since then has worked on all seven continents, covered numerous wars — starting with the Vietnam War — and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize eight times.

“I loved to stick my nose in other people’s business and I loved to write. Together they make journalism,” Lamb said. “For someone that wanted to be a journalist, I’d say start learning now about the world around you … Start reading newspapers and finding out what the world is about.”

After covering the Vietnam War, which he and many others considered to be the big story of the time, Lamb gained a reputation for never turning down an assignment. As a result, he was continually assigned to cover war. One journalist he admires is World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was known for writing columns about troops and their day-to-day lives.

“I hated being scared and I hated war and the sadness it caused, but as a journalist the thrill is great,” Lamb said.

He covered the Iranian Revolution, the African famine, the Persian Gulf War, the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Rwanda massacres. Lamb also spent several years in Cairo, writing for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote about the state of the city, its government and the religion of Islam.

The outrage that came from citizens after the arrest of a 14-year-old boy from Texas, Ahmed Mohamed, for bringing a homemade alarm clock to school — which was mistaken for a bomb by the boy’s teachers — shows that perhaps we’re starting to look at Islam in a new light.

“I’m not about to start bashing Islam or the Arabs,” Lamb said. “Islam is closer to Christianity than many other religions.”

Lamb covers the topic of Islam and the phobia that surrounds it in his book, “The Arabs: Journeys Beyond the Mirage.”

In his lecture, Lamb mentioned several of the points made in his writings about Islam, with statements referencing war directly. Among those statements is that most of the jihadis who join terrorist groups do so because they are easily targeted by those groups — jobless, uneducated, young Muslims with no skills who grew up in strict households.

Lamb also talked about living in Egypt.

Lost and confused, a cab driver paid for Lamb’s ride and took Lamb in to live with him. The driver helped Lamb in any ways he could by providing food and other necessities.

He also said that there are no frontlines in the Middle East; friend and foe are not always discernable. For this reason, Lamb finds journalism these days to be dangerous, and often speaks to young journalists about his work.

“I talked to two classes… I found them really alert and inquizitive, and engaged, asking questions. They asked darn good questions… I found them very impressive,” Lamb.

After Vietnam, Lamb felt that Americans generally agreed on the same things: It’s a bad idea to go to war if you don’t have an exit strategy, especially if the war isn’t supported back home.

“By 2003, we had forgotten what we learned,” Lamb said. “Don’t judge everyone by the standards of America. We don’t get everything right.”

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