President of Afghanistan attended LOHS

CNN has called him Afghanistan’s “first peaceful democratic transition of power”

An exchange student at Lake Oswego High School in the 1966-67 school year, Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani credits his time on student council as being influential in his life. Pictured here: President Barack Obama talks with Ghani following a news conference in March 2015 in the White House. (AP)

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. (LAKE OSWEGO REVIEW) — When Lake Oswego School District officials say they prepare their students to be world leaders, they’re not kidding.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, whose birth name was Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, is the student in the top row of this LOHS yearbook photo, second from the left. He also went by Ashraf Ghani and Ashraf Ahmad Zai. (Via Lake Oswego Review)
SUBMITTED PHOTO – Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, whose birth name was Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, is the student in the top row of this LOHS yearbook photo, second from the left. He also went by Ashraf Ghani and Ashraf Ahmad Zai. (Via Lake Oswego Review)

Many students who’ve attended a school in the district enroll in top-notch universities and become surgeons, judges, scientists and CEOs. Few of them go on to lead a nation. But Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who was an exchange student at Lake Oswego High School during the 1966-67 school year, did just that. He became the president of Afghanistan, elected to office in September 2014.

Ghani served on the student council at LOHS. There’s even a picture of Ghani at a homecoming dance moving to the rhythms of The Gentlemen Wild, a former Portland band. In the yearbook, Ghani’s black-and-white headshot shows a neatly groomed young man in a suit, looking much like the man he is today.

When Superintendent Heather Beck discovered that Ghani attended LOHS, she announced it during her presentation at a districtwide parent advisory committee meeting last week.
“Not only are we the top school district in the nation, we produce world leaders,” Beck told The Review, referring to a recent ranking in StartClass that billed LOSD as the best in the nation.

The Review sent emails to Ghani’s communications staff but did not receive a response. Locals are pretty excited, however.

Counselors Kathleen Hahn and Michele Tyra teamed up on an email to share how they feel about the news.

“It doesn’t surprise us,” Hahn and Tyra’s email said. “We work at a very special place where the school culture encourages students to engage in activities that are meaningful and inspires them to get involved in their community, state and nation. Our amazing teachers love what they do. This is evident in the way they instill the love of learning in their students.”

Though rising to the presidency of a nation is a pretty big deal, former LOHS students have done some amazing things over the years, including working U.S. presidential campaigns. Lakers later in life have been professional basketball and baseball players, ESPN employees, published writers, military officers, police officers, chefs, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and artists.

“You name it our students have done it!” the counselors’ email said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani can be seen here in a yearbook photo from the 1966-67 school year. (Via Lake Oswego Review)
SUBMITTED PHOTO – Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani can be seen here in a yearbook photo from the 1966-67 school year. (Via Lake Oswego Review)

On a visit to Portland in 2008 to discuss his book, “Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World,” Ghani praised the opportunities at LOHS, including being able to serve on the student council. He credited his experiences at the school for “opening his eyes to the power of citizenship,” according to an article in edutopia.org. At the time, he was serving as Afghanistan’s finance minister for the post-Taliban, transitional government.

“’It was the first time I ever saw students entrusted to make decisions, to decide how money should be spent. And we were held accountable for our decisions,’” was one comment he made at that 2008 presentation, according to Suzie Boss’ article “Becoming Citizens: A Stint in Student Government Can Shape One’s Future.” The article continued, “During that year, Ghani adds, he began to imagine how engaged citizens could fix a broken system. That bright vision has not dimmed.”

Born in 1949 in the Logar Province of Afghanistan, his birth name was Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Ghani graduated from the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, and received his master’s and doctorate in anthropology at Columbia University.

He was a lead anthropologist for the World Bank during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and it inspired him to return to Afghanistan, after the United States and Northern Alliance forces had pushed the Taliban out of the country. Ghani became the special adviser to Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan.

He later rose to the position of finance minister and then served as chancellor of Kabul University. He came in fourth place for the presidency in 2009. In 2010, he took on the role of chairman of the Transition Coordination Commission, which was responsible for the transition of power from International Security Assistance Forces and NATO to Afghan National Security Forces.

CNN has called him Afghanistan’s “first peaceful democratic transition of power.”

During his inauguration a year ago, the Office of the President’s website quotes Ghani as saying that Afghanistan, as a sovereign state, was entering into relations with the United States, NATO member countries, Japan, and European countries.

“So, our government that was seen 13 years back as a failed state and posed a threat to the international community that followed the U.N. Security Council’s resolution authorizing the presence of international forces in Afghanistan, is now standing as an active member of the international community with its rights and responsibilities,” Ghani said in his speech. “This change in the position has been one of the achievements of the last decade and the government of National Unity will, based on this achievement, move forward.

“Peace is our strategic goal. Therefore, strengthening our relations with the international community will help us develop a political plan for peace and stability.”

The Lake Oswego Review is a media partner of KOIN.

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