During the closing weeks of the 2016 US election season, I had the unique opportunity to try and explain the key moments of the campaign to an audience of Ukrainian university journalism students. During mid October, I started a one-month Fulbright Specialist lecture tour which took me to three cities in Ukraine — Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Lviv. My lectures focused on four topics: highlights of the US election campaign, dominant issues in US politics, news coverage, the US media structure (i.e. how Americans get their news), and challenges facing news organizations and journalists today.
Despite the unusual and complex nature of the 2016 election cycle, based on my 27-year career as a journalist and broadcast manager at the Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service and also on my work at the US-Ukraine Foundation, it was hard to contain my excitement about the task of explaining the campaign and other topics relating to life in the United States and the American political system to a Ukrainian audience, and doing so in the Ukrainian language was particularly satisfying.
I was pleasantly surprised by the familiarity of Ukrainian students with US current affairs and by their high level of participation in class discussions. Their questions and comments zeroed in on many nuances of US domestic and foreign policy. Naturally, they were quite curious about the possible impact of the election on US-Ukrainian relations. In our discussions about the situation in their country, students expressed disappointment with what they see as the slow pace of reforms in Ukraine but seemed determined to make a contribution to moving the country forward and integrating with the West.
My interactions with students at Kyiv Shevchenko National University, Kharkiv Karazin National University, Lviv Franko National University, America House, the Diplomatic Academy, and a number of other institutions left me heartened and confident about Ukraine’s future. As I write these words, I look forward to another teaching assignment in Ukraine, this time about the even more extraordinary 2020 elections in the USA.
Adrian Karmazyn – Fulbright to Ukraine 2016