“It was an exciting ride,” said Patrick O’Meara of his global peregrinations with IU President Michael McRobbie, in a brief chronicle of his two decades as dean and vice president charged with overseeing IU’s international affairs. “The long plane trips were like an academy in the air as we batted ideas around across the world.”
The occasion was the inauguration of a new series of international lectures named in O’Meara’s honor. Timothy Roemer, former member of Congress from Indiana, and U.S. ambassador to India from 2009-11, spoke about the connections between the U.S. and India. In a period of economic uncertainty, a time when instincts are to pull in the reins and view new initiatives with suspicion, Roemer reminded us of a better way. He began with an image of a book published two decades ago. It spoke of the United States and India as “Estranged Democracies.” “It is unfortunate,” Roemer said. When we recognize how much common ground and how many common interests there are between the nations, we begin to understand how powerful a benefit a mutual reaching out would be. He offered as a case in point a photo of himself in the driver’s seat of a rickshaw, which was circulated by the press throughout Indian and which spoke worlds to Indian citizens. Another, Roemer pointed out, was the work of individuals like Patrick O’Meara, who are not content to wait until world issues come to them; and like Michael McRobbie and O’Meara’s successor as vice president for international affairs, David Zaret, who this fall spent more than a week in intensive meetings on campuses all over India, looking for ways for IU to connect. Roemer’s final example consisted of three words, “We the people.” India is a young democracy, the U.S. an old one, but both have constitutions that begin with these words.