Imagine the power of a peaceful, calm river, untouched and unstopped by chaos, death and destruction all around it. Would you be inspired? Janessa Gans Wilder was. She marveled at how the Euphrates River could still bring life, sustenance and hope in the dangerous, war-torn desert of the Middle East. That inspiration moved her to do the same. Tune in to hear how a former CIA Analyst transformed that inspiration into a unique peace-building initiative.
Janessa Gans Wilder, a former CIA analyst, founded Euphrates on the heels of a 21-month assignment in Iraq. Janessa was liaising with top Iraqi leaders in the run up to the first elections in 2005, and witnessed first hand the clashes between Americans and Iraqis and the lack of cultural, religious, and historical understanding that pervaded both sides. Convinced that our foreign policy challenges require more than government effort, Janessa resigned from the CIA to start a grassroots movement to allay fear and restore trust between the West and Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11. Her aim is to help citizens on both sides realize their mutual humanity as the way to find lasting freedom and security. Her Middle East experience has included Arabic study in the Palestinian Territories and extended travel throughout the Arab world. After five years of government service on the Middle East and South Asia, she became a consultant to the State Department and a visiting professor of Middle East issues at Principia College. Janessa received a Master’s degree in International Policy Studies from Stanford University, and her BA from Principia College.
“I’ve experienced the impact of healing the divide between Middle East and West through the power of personal relationships. I’m so grateful to be part of a community that understands how timely, imperative, and, indeed–possible, is change in our relations with the Middle East. And that the best way to accomplish this is to begin with ourselves and our perceptions.”