Andrew Beiter, Robert H. Jackson director of youth education, participated in a digital "hangout" with United States Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday.
Beiter, who is also an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Springville Middle School, conducted a Google Hangout, where he was able to ask several questions about the Syrian conflict of the secretary. Also participating in the hangout were Lara Setrakian, journalist and founder of Syria Deeply, and Nicholas Kristof, New York Times op-ed columnist.
Aside from interviewing Kerry about the Syrian conflict, the interview was also meant as an opportunity for Kerry to discuss how educators can bridge the gap between the newsroom and the classroom by explaining to students what is occurring in Syria today.
John Kerry participates in a digital hangout on Google on Tuesday.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
Beiter questioned Kerry about why there is a concern about Syria and the use of chemical weapons now, as opposed to over the last year and a half.
"We are deeply concerned about the overall loss of life in Syria. It's now somewhere around 100,000 people," Kerry said. "There hasn't been a will in the global community, let alone in our own country, to get involved in Syria's civil war."
Kerry explained that now that chemical weapons are allegedly being used, people are taking notice. Following an attack on Aug. 21 that killed roughly 1,400 Syrians, Kerry said President Barack Obama decided to become involved.
"There are people there who want to fight. ... They are simply asking America for help in which to do it, not unlike that manner in which we asked the French in our war of independence, and Lafayette helped us to break away from the British."
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak," Kerry said. "The president decided that it needed a response from the world, because chemical weapons were suddenly being used as a tactical weapon in a civil war. Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. That's why we are where we are today."
Additionally, although Syria has not made a direct threat to the United States, Kerry said the United States' involvement would be for the protection of the American people.
"This matters to your security, to each of us individually as Americans," Kerry said. "We are in fact threatened by this use of weapons, because this use of weapons breaks a standard about the use of chemical weapons that has been in place for nearly 100 years. In war, our soldiers have not been threatened ever since World War I, when this was decided. Our soldiers have been free from weapons in war because of this prohibition. We don't want to see that broken now."
Kerry also said during the interview that the president is "absolutely determined, committed, resolute there will be no American boots on the ground."
"We are not going to go in with Americans and get involved with Syria's civil war," Kerry stated. "The maximum that we are doing is supporting the opposition. There are people there who want to fight. ... They are simply asking America for help in which to do it, not unlike that manner in which we asked the French in our war of independence, and Lafayette helped us to break away from the British. They're asking for help from the outside, but they're prepared to do their own fighting."
The discussion between the four lasted for 30 minutes, while more than 7,000 viewers watched a live YouTube feed.
On Aug. 31, the president unexpectedly announced he was seeking congressional support in a strike punishing Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons.
Obama challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price."
Additionally, had he gone ahead with a military strike, Obama would have been the first president since President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to attack a foreign nation without broad international support or acting in direct defense of Americans. In 1983, Reagan ordered an invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada.