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For many generations of Arab youth, mine included, studying and working in the United States was a coveted opportunity to experience freedoms, possibilities and the sense of egalitarianism that the American way of life embodied.

It was a doubly enriching experience for those of us raised in authoritarian or conservative societies. It was thrilling to be able to think and act independently, without societal pressure. I was excited to take home some of the lessons I learned from a functioning democracy, not least the vital role of freedom of expression, the importance of civil society and the exceptional benefits of empowering people.

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