Dubai. Most of my knowledge regarding this city prior to arrival centered on tennis matches, finance, bentleys (and other cars I’ve never even heard of), and oil; an anomaly in the desert sands of the Middle East. The initial arrival did little to debunk this notion of upper-crust living. Our hotel offered all the luxuries of high-class life, and the evening view to the Burj Dubai (the tallest building in the world) left me breathless. For a moment, I really thought this city was IT. This is the place where cutting edge technology, financial innovation and capital successfully unite to spur one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Waking up the next morning, seeing all the construction and cranes, and restarting the dialogue that has been ongoing for the past several days, brought me back to reality. Yes, this city is rich in the dollar sense and is a worldwide phenomena on a number of levels. Yet despite this, there are concerns ranging from economic sustainability to political transparency and human rights. All of these issues are ones we have been pressing the past few days both in our formal and informal discussions. There is concern that with the markets in the U.S. taking a nosedive, that half-way around the world Dubai will continue to lose the ex-pats upon whom a great deal of the financial structure is dependent. In some moments, I fear it could collapse as quickly as it was built.

With such thoughts, however, I remind myself of the Emiratis with whom we are traveling and with whom we have met. The citizens of this country are one of the best things the UAE has got going for it. They are warm, welcoming and full of an optimism that is refreshing during the downtimes we are facing back home. Meeting with a researcher yesterday at the Dubai School of Government, I learned that a great deal of work is being put into studying the role of gender and politics and human rights. Additionally, there is a youth population with enormous potential to demand the necessary qualities the UAE needs to not only be an attractive, out of this world experience, but also a long-term successful leader for the Middle East and the world as a whole. Finally, I have to remind myself that this country is young, and it took the United States of America over two hundred years to reach the point we have reached today. We certainly cannot expect to see a perfect system emerge overnight in the UAE. On some levels, I think we expect it because they have already demonstrated such an unparalleled capacity to build up their very young nation in such a short time. Dubai is rich. There really are Bentleys and 7 Star Hotels. But it is much more, and I have found my greatest joy in visiting this city, and the UAE as a whole, has been engaging with the young Emiratis who are a vital asset to the future progress and success of the country.

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