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American ambassador asks SE1 sixth-formers what they think of USA

The US ambassador to the UK paid a visit to Walworth Academy - just off Old Kent Road - earlier this month.

American ambassador asks SE1 sixth-formers what they think of USA
Matthew Barzun at Walworth Academy
American ambassador asks SE1 sixth-formers what they think of USA

Matthew Barzun visited the school to find out what sixth-formers in Southwark think of the United States and to discuss the issues that were important to them.

The visit started with an interactive presentation where pupils voted using clicker buttons, to establish perceptions of the US.

The ambassador learnt that less than a quarter of pupils had travelled to the USA, although 75 per cent said they would consider going to the US to live, work or study.

The presentation also addressed more controversial topics such as violent crime, treatment of minorities and access to emergency care.

The ambassador asked the students for their opinions on which foreign policy issue was most important to them: one third said international terrorism, 30 per cent said Israel/Palestine, 13 per cent said Afghanistan, 13 per cent said UK and the EU and 11per cent said Syria.

Mr Barzun was keen to know what concerns the students had about the US, the students came up with a varied and thought-provoking list. Top of the list was guns and the ambassador talked about the way in which the US responded to the tragic events at Sandy Hook elementary school and the strong debate in the US about whether or not to amend gun control laws.

Other topics the students discussed with the Ambassador included healthcare, foreign policy since World War II, police brutality, interventionism, the death penalty, Ukraine and Guantanamo Bay.

The ambassador was impressed with the discussion and thanked the students saying "I have learned a lot".

The Ambassador finished his visit with a Q&A session with four selected year 12 students. Ebenezer Nkengfack Jr, Sanmi Makanjuola, Tarana Akther and Rameen Hayat quizzed the ambassador on his own education, his move into politics, his perception of the UK and his advice to aspiring young people like themselves. Ambassador Barzun said his advice was to "realise how much power there is in asking other people for help".

The students were very impressed by the ambassador's visit: "He was excellent in engaging the audience, and an excellent communicator. He was really down to earth, which I wasn't expecting" said Rameen.

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