The UAE is growing into a nation that is about more than just petroleum exports, it is now a center of technology, with its greatest resource, its youth. For years, oil and gas dominated the local economy, however in the last two decades the UAE has has worked to diversify its economy so that oil and gas make up only 30 percent of the GDP. In addition, Ambassador Al Otaiba noted that the UAE is the largest U.S. export partner in the Arab world despite being a country of just 10 million people. To preserve the climate of trade and growing prosperity, the UAE has played a leading role in a fight against Iranian-backed forces in Yemen and joined the coalitions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
However, what was most important for the Ambassador to convey was his sense of optimism about the next generation of Middle Easterners. Al Otaiba gave the commencement address to 130 students from 58 countries graduating from New York University Abu Dhabi. With only three graduating classes, the university boasts six Rhodes scholars. The Ambassador rightly remarks that these students are clearly the best and brightest, and their world view is shaped in a unique way as members of the most diverse student body in the world.
The students are eager to shed the old way of doing things, and move forward in a world that embraces inclusivity and respect for all people around the world. “When I look ahead in the region, I see more Rhodes scholars and fewer terrorist recruits,” Al Otaiba said. “More Mars missions and fewer ballistic missiles, more women leaders and fewer Jihadi Janes, more online start-ups and fewer extremist websites. An Islam of peace and inclusion, not of extremes. In the UAE, this is our way forward.”
Following his inspirational address, the Ambassador took questions on other topics affecting the world’s perception of the UAE and Islam ranging from the nuclear deal to social media and yes even Donald Trump. To read the full Q&A visit.