From the USISPO Chairman
Rob Kistenberg, MPH, CP, FAAOP
I recently had an opportunity to travel to Iran. This was not related to my role with ISPO but as a consultant to perform prosthetic education and clinical services. Given my love for travel, meeting new people and adventure, it seemed like another wonderful opportunity in a long succession of wonderful opportunities. But this was Iran. I was torn between two opposing voices. Simply named "GO" and "DON'T GO".
DON'T GO was the cautious and reactionary voice which said that going to a country that, from all accounts in the media, is a hostile and dangerous place especially towards the United States and Americans. They hate America and make no secret about wanting to wipe Israel off the map. Why on earth would any American agree to go to Iran? Checking the State Department website for Iran only amplified the volume of this voice with phrases like:
"The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. " and "The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to American citizens in Iran." (ref)
Next when I would discuss this possible trip to Iran with close friends and family, the response across the board was the same only varied in magnitude:
"You are thinking about going where? Why on Earth would you do that?" or
"Are you crazy? You have a wife and kids." And "You better update your life insurance policy".
Even my wife, who is extraordinarily supportive of my international efforts, was taken aback by this trip request. Not so much that the trip was being offered, but that I was even considering going at all.
Yet there was this other voice. The GO Voice. Quiet at first. Patiently waiting its turn to speak. Like the child in the back of the class with their hand up amidst a classroom melee. GO knew eventually it would get its turn to speak up when the screaming subsided.
GO made a quietly rational argument. Not many opportunities will arise that will allow you to go to Iran, if even only for a few days. You will have a chance to meet the people of Iran and see for yourself what they are like. How could the Iranians, descendents of the noble and proud Persians one of the mightiest and most refined empires on the planet for centuries, become in their entirety so engulfed with hatred that they lived only with the premise to kill. It didn't add up somehow. Is it possible that these were a people whose government was not representative of the people they governed? It wouldn't be the first time in modern history.
Besides, how many people have an opportunity like this? It should not be dismissed outright. Furthermore, if I go, it will give the Iranians a chance to meet an American that is coming to their country to offer education and clinical services. I am by no means a poster boy for the United States of America. Yet if I could go to Iran as an Ambassador of Prosthetic Goodwill it might give them a different impression about Americans than perhaps whatever their media was showing them. My guess was that between what their government was telling them about Americans, reinforced by the Wars, and John Wayne reruns, chances are that their perception of Americans was likely not accurate. Or perhaps as accurate as what our media was telling us about them.
The GO voice won. The trip was set for the middle of January. The visas were arranged.
PO Box 3188 Dublin, OH 43016
(614) 659-0197 (614) 336-8596 FAX