Harvard Arab Weekend with Bassem Youssef

bassem3The 8th annual Harvard Arab Weekend kicked off with keynote speaker Dr. Bassem Youssef; an Egyptian heart surgeon turned political satirist. After watching a video compiled by Bassem’s team, he walked into a standing ovation of 300+ people. Then in typical Bassem fashion, he asked the clapping crowd, “Any medical doctors here? Go home you should be studying!” A couple seconds of being on stage and he had already gotten people laughing. Keeping in mind that the theme for this years Arab weekend is, “Inspiring Solutions,” Bassem began his speech. His first sentence was catchy and left everyone amused, “So being an Arab, we, me and you, come from a region that is known for one thing and one thing only… democracy!” Bassem then went on to explain how Arab leaders believe Arabs are unfit for democracy and that is the sole reason the Middle East doesn’t have any democracy.

Moreover, Bassem had no advice about how to inspire solutions. He made it clear that he believes the youth hold the solutions for the future, and that if he were to make suggestions then he would continue to plague youthful generations with older ideologies. Surely we must recognize that it is impossible to fully bassem4
detach all youth from older generations. In fact, what is the cut off for youth? At what age does one go from being youthful to old? And what if a member of an older generation had an inspiring solution to one of the many problems in the Middle East? Should we, the youth, not adhere to it? These were all questions that went unanswered in Bassem’s speech.

Lastly, there was a short Q&A section in the end that yielded both critical and comical questions. One comical question was related to the rumor that Bassem had gotten 5 billion pounds in return to going against the Egyptian government, “fein el khamsa milliar ya bassem?” which translates to, “Where are the 5 billion, Bassem?” Another was about his on-point styling, “Who styles you Bassem? Can they style me?” Bassem laughed this off, and gave credit to his amazing team. Then came undeniably, the funniest question of all, “Are you married? If not marry me!” Bassem is probably the only political figure that appeals to the majority of females.

More critical questions commenced, “Why don’t you just make youtube videos now that the show is cancelled?” Bassem’s answer showed how much pressure he’s under, “because I fear for my life, because I have kids and I want to raise them, and because if anything were to happen to me the most you could do is retweet and write a couple of hashtags.” Another question was if he, Bassem, would consider continuing, “Al-Barnameg” from outside of Egypt. To which he responded by stating that he would be viewed as a traitor and being anti-Egypt; consequently, he is not considering that option.

Bassem concluded the event after approximately 25 minutes of Q&A and once again, received a rowdy standing ovation by everyone at the event.





 Mohamed El Shamy, Chapter Leader, Boston