May 5, 2009


Dear SSA Members


I think this is my penultimate Presidential letter, and it comes to you as a rather late spring is coming intermittently into the Salt Lake Valley. The semester is over and I have only a few more essays and term papers to grade.


The elections for my successor will take place this fall, and I strongly urge you all to vote. I am delighted that Geoffrey Schad is already in place as Secretary to ease the transition and that Beverly Levine is our new Student Representative. I should like to extend my sincere thanks to Dr Imad Moustapha, the ambassador of Syria to the United States, who not only gave a most interesting talk at our reception at MESA in Washington DC last November, but also graciously invited several of us to his residence for dinner, a most enjoyable and memorable evening.


This year the Association has sponsored three panels for MESA in Boston, which I very much hope you will all attend. I understand that Sadik al-Azm will be in the United States this fall, and I will invite him to give the talk at our reception. I think he already has his US visa, so I anticipate that he will be able to accept our invitation.


Last time I wrote this letter I thought that I perceived something of a thaw in US/Syrian relations. After the US Presidential elections the process seems to have developed further, and while this country is inevitably most concerned with the financial crisis it seems that foreign relations are proceeding in a generally positive direction. There have been informal meetings between American and Syrian officials, a trend that I very much hope continues. I have received several enquiries about language courses in Syria over the past few months, and it is clear that more and more students are interested in going to Syria to study.


As usual I should like to thank Joshua Landis for his work on the website, and Steve Tamari for editing the Newsletter. I am glad that the Association continues to prosper, and I look forward to seeing many of you in Boston in November.


Very best wishes to you all,


Peter Sluglett