Should Colleges Warn Students Courses May Include Upsetting Material?

Gabriella Morrongiello /

Earlier this year, when the University of California, Santa Barbara, adopted a student-led resolution urging professors to include trigger warnings on class syllabi—statements which provide notice the coursework may include potentially upsetting material—pundits on both sides of the aisle reacted strongly.

Months later, the debate has attracted a new caucus: academics.

Ann Pellegrini, New York University professor and director of NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, recently spoke on a panel titled “Taking Offense: Trigger Warnings and the Neoliberal Politics of Endangerment.”

In an email to NYU’s student newspaper, Pellegrini described her concerns:

In calling for the classroom to be a ‘safe space,’ the movement for trigger warnings ends up closing down one of the crucial places where students and teachers, too, can experiment having and surviving the hurt feelings that may result from differences in viewpoints and differences in moral values.

Pellegrini’s colleague, Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history and education at NYU, penned an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education in May in which he proposed what college syllabi might look like if professors must include trigger warnings.

In his mock syllabus, Zimmerman listed the topics of a U.S. history course along with corresponding descriptions containing trigger warnings. For example:

Although Zimmerman’s syllabus is satirical, many believe it illustrates how satisfying an inflated degree of hypersensitivity might threaten academic freedom.

Comfort vs. Intellectual Engagement

In September, the American Association of University Professors issued a lengthy report on trigger warnings in which the organization condemned their use in college classrooms and described an assortment of alleged issues they create.

“The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual. It makes comfort a higher priority than intellectual engagement,” the report stated.

According to the AAUP, trigger warnings stifle faculty’s discretion in choosing “course materials and teaching methods;” discourage critical thinking; draw too much attention to one theme or aspect of a complex topic, film or literary work; and “[put] the onus for avoiding such responses on the teacher” rather than referring students with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other “cases of serious trauma” to health care professionals.

The AAUP report used Wellesley College as an example. Students there petitioned the university to relocate “a sculpture of a man in his underwear because it might be a source of ‘triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault,’” the report said.

AAUP also noted the open-endedness of trigger warnings can single out “politically controversial topics like sex, class, capitalism, and colonialism for attention.”

“If such topics are associated with triggers, correctly or not, they are likely to be marginalized if not avoided altogether by faculty who fear complaints for offending or discomforting some of their students,” stated the report.

According to Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman fellow in education at The Heritage Foundation, the debate over trigger warnings on college campuses serves to further discredit American higher education.

“Issues like this are part of the reason students, parents and employers are increasingly questioning the value of a bachelor’s degree and even whether its time as a proxy of employability has passed,” Burke told The Daily Signal.

The Role of Sexual Assault

Digital trigger warnings, which first appeared in the feminist blogosphere on sites such as Jezebel and Feministing, have garnered attention in the last couple years since sexual assault prevention has become a topic of national conversation.

Mary-Megan Marshall, 23, told the feminist magazine Ms. in May that including trigger warnings on syllabi demonstrates empathy toward former victims of sexual assault such as herself.

“I think college professors show they care about survivors by providing trigger warnings for their classes,” Marshall told Ms. “College is an experience of learning, but unfortunately—and this was true in my case—it’s fraught with sexual assault.”

But the AAUP asserts that using trigger warnings to warn sexual assault victims of content they may find disturbing takes attention away from addressing the broader problem of “social behaviors that permit sexual violence to take place.

“Trigger warnings will not solve this problem, but only misdirect attention from it and, in the process, threaten the academic freedom of teachers and students whose classrooms should be open to difficult discussions, whatever form they take,” said the AAUP report.

Rather than mandate the addition of trigger warnings to syllabi, the AAUP said colleges should encourage students with PTSD and other cases of trauma to “agree on a plan for treatment with the relevant health advisers” to work on preventing unexpected reactions to certain material.

“Faculty should, of course, be sensitive that such reactions may occur in their classrooms, but they should not be held responsible for them,” stated the AAUP.

How a D.C. Airport Reacted When an Honor Flight Landed - Daily Signal

How a D.C. Airport Reacted When an Honor Flight Landed

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky /

Recently I saw one of those spontaneous events that renews your faith in the patriotism and good will of the American people. It also illustrated their appreciation for the servicemen and women who have risked their lives for our nation.

It was in the C Terminal of Reagan National, one of three airports serving Washington, D.C. I had just passed through security when I saw a huge crowd of travelers gathered around Gate 38, clapping and cheering. I could hear music, too: “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a World War II standard seldom heard these days.

It turned out that an Honor Flight had pulled up to the gate and was unloading a group of veterans for a special visit to Washington. With a live band playing favorites of a bygone era and flags flying on either side of the entrance to the jetway, veterans of World War II and Korea came out of the gate. Some were walking, some rolling in wheelchairs, and others hobbling with the aid of canes or family members and Honor Flight ground crew.

Reagan National is always full of travelers rushing to catch their flights—tourists returning home after visiting the Nation’s Capital, servicemen and women from the Pentagon or nearby military installations, business travelers as well as many congressional and executive-branch officials. But today, a large number of those harried travelers spontaneously took the time to stop and show their support for these elderly Americans who have given so much for their country. For many of those veterans, this may be their last trip to Washington.

It was so emotional that many in the crowd had to reach for tissues. I’m not a sentimental guy, but I’ll admit it: I was one of them. It seemed you could almost hear the faint notes of bugles far away playing a salute to the fallen comrades of these veterans, comrades who were awaiting their arrival just down the street from Reagan National at Arlington National Cemetery.

It was an inspiring and moving moment in a fast-paced, ever-changing culture. It made me realize that at least one thing hasn’t changed in the long life of our republic: the patriotic love that everyday Americans have for our country.

Originally appeared in National Review.

Why Have Average Hourly Earnings Only Increased 33 Cents in Recent Years? - Daily Signal

Why Have Average Hourly Earnings Only Increased 33 Cents in Recent Years?

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk /

By many measures the labor market is improving smartly. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in September—not far from the level many economists consider typical during normal economic conditions. The number of job vacancies has jumped almost one-fifth since the start of the year, while employers have created 2.6 million net new jobs over the last 12 months. Nonetheless, polls show Americans remain deeply concerned about the economy. A hefty majority tell Gallup pollsters they consider the economy to be “getting worse.” Polls also find economic concerns topping voters’ anxieties. Why the dichotomy between the economic statistics and popular perception?

In part it’s because these figures do not tell the full story. The economy remains in worse shape than the headline figures suggest. Many analysts have discussed how much labor force participation fell during the downturn. Millions of Americans no longer count as unemployed because they have become so discouraged, they’ve stopped looking for work. Analysts have paid much less attention to another problem—anemic wage growth.

Inflation-adjusted wages have hardly changed since the recession ended. Between July 2009 (the start of the recovery) and August 2014, real wages grew 1.4 percent. That’s total growth, not annual growth. After factoring out inflation, average hourly earnings have increased just 33 cents over more than five years. Small wonder many Americans feel getting ahead has become harder.

Why has wage growth dropped so sharply? Economists have several theories:

After factoring out inflation, average hourly earnings have increased just 33 cents over more than five years.

Reduced Labor Demand. Essentially, blame the business cycle. Wages have stagnated because the lackluster economy has made businesses less interested in hiring. With sales low, companies see little need to add to their payrolls. Simple supply and demand predicts that reduced demand for labor will lower its price—wages. The media most commonly cite this explanation, and it contains much truth. The recession and weak recovery almost certainly depressed wages. However, labor demand has clearly improved in recent years. Job openings surged in 2014 to levels not seen since 2006 and 2007. Wages have scarcely budged. Reduced labor demand cannot explain that.

Increased Labor Supply. Changes in labor supply can. When labor supply increases, employment rises and wages fall. And Federal Reserve economists estimate that the expiration of long-term unemployment insurance (UI) benefits at the end of 2013 increased labor supply. The longer benefits had led the unemployed to search longer for better offers. This put upward pressure on wages, which discouraged companies from creating jobs. Their model predicted that ending extended UI benefits would cause wages to fall and job openings to rise. Indeed job openings increased in 2014 by almost exactly the amount this model predicted.
However, labor supply can explain only some of the wage stagnation. This economic model projected that extended UI benefits account for virtually all the elevated unemployment during the recovery. Even conservative economists consider that implausible; the model may overestimate how much UI benefits affect job creation. Moreover labor supply decreased throughout much of the recovery; increased supply can only explain recent changes.

Federal policy has made hiring workers more expensive—and that money comes out of workers’ wages.

Obamacare. Labor demand can increase without workers’ pay rising if hiring becomes more expensive. Employers will pay more, but workers do not see that money in their paychecks. Indeed, Obamacare appears to have made employing workers considerably more expensive. Accounts of the healthcare law raising hiring costs fill recent Federal Reserve Beige Book reports. Polling finds two-fifths of employers who offer health coverage say the law has raised their costs. Surveys conducted by the New York, Dallas, and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks also find the healthcare law hurting businesses. Federal policy has made hiring workers more expensive—and that money comes out of workers’ wages.

Which of these explanations explains the wage slowdown? Probably all three. It will take more time and data to determine which has played the largest role. In the meantime, workers who believe the economy remains far from a recovery have a lot of justification for feeling that way.

Originally appeared on TheFederalist.com.

Confusing Wording Could Sink New Mexico Amendment - Daily Signal

Confusing Wording Could Sink New Mexico Amendment

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski /

An amendment on the ballot in New Mexico could pave the way for taxpayers saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in school elections across the state.

But critics say the wording of Constitutional Amendment 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot may so confuse voters they may end up simply skipping the question or even inadvertently vote the opposite of what they intend.

“I think it’s too bad we don’t value clear writing on the ballot,” said Gwyneth Doland, a part-time instructor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, who thinks too many ballot questions are written in overly lawyered terms that come at the expense of plain English.

Even the sponsor of Amendment 1 concedes as much.

“I think in retrospect it could have been phrased more clearly,” said state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.

Here’s how Constitutional Amendment 1 is worded:

Proposing to amend article 7, section 1 of the constitution of New Mexico to provide that school elections shall be held at different times from partisan elections.

The phrasing implies that school elections are currently held at the same time as partisan elections. They aren’t.

Instead, school elections in the state have long been held completely separately. They’re not conducted during November statewide elections and they’re not even held when municipal issues, such as bond questions, go before voters.

Why?

Before 1920, women didn’t have the right to vote in federal elections. To allow women in New Mexico to vote in school elections, the state constitution had school elections on a different date than federal elections.

In fact, to this day, school board elections in New Mexico can’t be held at the same time as ANY other election.

That’s what Amendment 1 tries to change. According to Ivey-Soto, the idea is to fix the state constitution by giving legislators the right to debate moving school board elections to align with municipal elections — something Ivey-Soto estimates could save taxpayers in the Albuquerque area alone between $300,000-$500,000.

“All this allows us to do is have a conversation that we can’t have otherwise.” Ivey-Soto said.

Since Amendment 1 deals with voting rights, it needs to be supported by 75 percent of New Mexico voters instead of a simple majority.

Read more at Watchdog.org

How a New York Times Story Upset the ‘Bush Lied, People Died’ Narrative - Daily Signal

How a New York Times Story Upset the ‘Bush Lied, People Died’ Narrative

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski / Kim Holmes /

Iraq’s chemical weapons are back in the news. The New York Times reported that American troops found roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells and aviation bombs since the Iraq War began. Then last week The Washington Post reported the Islamic State had used chlorine gas against Iraqi police officers.

What’s going on? We’ve been told “Bush lied” about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Now we learn they’ve been showing up in the thousands and are toxic enough to injure people.

The Times reporter stressed that the discovered items had been manufactured before 1991, arguing that they shouldn’t count as evidence of active WMD programs which the Bush administration had “claimed as an excuse for embarking on the Iraq war.”

However the article failed to mention that the U.N. Security Council was concerned about destroying all Iraqi chemical weapons stocks, regardless of when they were manufactured. The discovery of these weapons proves that Saddam Hussein failed to fulfill his disarmament obligations under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

And the compliance issue was at the very core of the Bush administration’s case against Iraq at the United Nations.

Saddam used chemical weapons late in the Iran-Iraq war. In March 1988, he used them against his own people, killing up to 5,000 Iraqi Kurds. The U.N. Security Council passed numerous resolutions documenting the legal case against Iraq over WMD. On April 3, 1991, the Security Council passed Resolution 687, requiring Iraq to destroy all of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and missiles that could deliver them. The United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) was established to ensure Iraq’s compliance.

Fast-forward to 2002 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, negotiated by the Bush administration. It “deplored” the fact that Iraq still had not provided “accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure” of its weapons programs as required by Resolution 687.

As far as the Security Council was concerned, the main legal question was not whether Iraq’s WMD programs were active — the U.N. knew from previous inspections that Saddam’s WMD program had created an inventory of WMD. The question was what happened to them. The accuracy or verifiability of the U.S. intelligence case about active WMD programs wasn’t of primary importance to the Security Council. Rather, it was “seized” with the issue of Iraqi compliance with many Security Council resolutions, particularly Chapter VII ones.

Even Hans Blix, the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission that followed UNSCOM, conceded as much. He expressed frustration with Iraq’s failure to account for the vast store of chemical and biological agents it was known to have had. At one point Mr. Blix called the inability to verify all aspects of the WMD program “perhaps the most important problem we are facing.”

It is understandable that the world wanted to know the reliability of U.S. intelligence, but it should not have turned its eye away so quickly from the central issue of Iraqi compliance with international law. Once the war began, it was all about finding active programs — a narrative the Bush administration inexplicably let grow. Forgotten were all those pesky “technical” details about how “serious consequences” would befall Iraq if Saddam did not comply with those Security Council resolutions, which he most assuredly did not.

Which brings us back to The New York Times story. Finding stockpiles of chemical munitions clearly didn’t mesh with the “Bush lied, people died” narrative. The reporter seems to have seized on the 1991 date and the secondary issue of “active” programs to explain it away.

The diplomatic record shows that the U.S. argued at the Security Council that Saddam was in “material breach” of his obligations on inspections. Some of the evidence provided by the U.S. of active programs turned out to be wrong, but the context was to raise questions about what was not known, and thus to drive home the fact that Saddam was not meeting his obligations to the United Nations, something which normally would matter to people who take the U.N.’s every word as gospel.

Originally appeared in the Washington Times.

‘Integrity’ Panel has Opportunity to Check Governor’s Fund - Daily Signal

‘Integrity’ Panel has Opportunity to Check Governor’s Fund

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski / Kim Holmes / Kenric Ward /

RICHMOND, Va. — When Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Commission to Ensure Integrity and Public Confidence compiles its legislative agenda, the panel could start by revoking one of his vetoes and resurrecting an ethics bill concerning the governor’s office.

The Governor’s Opportunity Fund has given $199.4 million to new or expanding companies since 1994. McAuliffe this year vetoed legislation that would curb personal or political contributions from GOF recipients.

The GOF disbursed more than $7.4 million to firms in fiscal 2014. That does not include $5 million McAuliffe pledged this month to help Richmond build a brewery on the James River for California-based Stone Brewing Co., or the $5 million he granted to China’s Shandong Tranlin Paper Co. for a mill downriver in Chesterfield County.

Only one other $5 million grant was recorded in the 20-year history of the Opportunity Fund.

This year’s General Assembly passed House Bill 1212 to prohibit the governor or any of his political committees from soliciting or accepting donations or gifts worth $50 or more from anyone seeking to tap the GOF, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last May. Despite HB 1212’s unanimous approval, McAuliffe’s veto was not overridden.

Another ethics bill — Rep. Scott Surovell’s “Conflict of Interests Act” — would have barred any business or contractual relationships between the governor and his appointees while serving in office.

Reasonable as that may sound, HB 245 died in the House Courts of Justice Committee last session.

Surovell, a Mount Vernon Democrat, says he is maxed out on the number of bills he can introduce next year. So the idea could be picked up by other lawmakers — or McAuliffe’s Commission.

The integrity commission, headed by former Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher and former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, is officially tasked “with recommending good government reforms, including meaningful rules for the ethical conduct of state officials, procedures for ensuring accountability to the electorate, and policies guiding the selection and service of high-quality public servants.”

Read more at Watchdog.org

‘Grass March’ Turned Out to Be Final Ride for Original Sagebrush Rebel - Daily Signal

‘Grass March’ Turned Out to Be Final Ride for Original Sagebrush Rebel

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski / Kim Holmes / Kenric Ward / Gabriella Morrongiello /

Grant Gerber, a longtime Nevada rancher, attorney and land-rights activist, died last Saturday from injuries sustained during his cross-country ride in the Grass March on Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, Gerber, a 72-year-old county commissioner of Elko County, Nev., who earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam, led a group of ranchers and grassroots activists on horseback from the Pacific coast to Capitol Hill to draw attention to the Bureau of Land Management’s regulation of public and privately owned lands in the West.

>>> From California to D.C., These Cowboys Rode in Protest of Government Land Grab

Midway through the trip east, Gerber suffered a head injury when his horse stumbled into a prairie dog hole and fell. After experiencing headaches during his trip back to Nevada, Gerber was seen by doctors in Wyoming who discovered internal bleeding. He underwent surgery last week at a hospital in Salt Lake City and died there two days later.

“He was a man of true colors and he died with his boots on,” Nevada state assemblyman John Ellison told the Elko Daily Free Press.

According to the Elko Daily, Gerber began championing states’ rights nearly four decades ago “when Congress began to designate the nation’s first wilderness areas.”

“He was an original Sagebrush rebel,” R.J. Smith, a distinguished fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, told The Daily Signal.

The Sagebrush Rebellion had begun in Nevada and a small number of other western states following the passage of the Federal Land Policy Management Act in 1976, Smith said. By 1979, Nevada and four other states had passed resolutions calling for return of federal lands to the states.

Smith said Gerber was one of the earliest to focus on protections for private property rights on public lands in the West and to call for continuation of multiple-use policies on the federal lands.

Over the years Gerber fought against the expansion of federal land, government abuses associated with enforcement of environmental legislation such as the Endangered Species Act, and, most recently, the BLM’s grazing restrictions, which severely hampered ranching families throughout Nevada, Smith said.

At one point in his career, Gerber helped produce Big Park, a music video famous in the property rights movement that underscored abuses of the National Park Service in taking private property to create parks.

According to Smith, Gerber brought “clarity and focus and respect to the cause of individual liberty and the unalienable rights of life, liberty and property and [drew] attention to how the government was growing ever more tyrannical towards private ownership of land and resources and towards private rights in federal lands, such as water rights and property rights.”

Just a couple weeks before his death, Gerber delivered petitions signed by ranchers and landowners from counties in Kansas, Utah and Nevada to members of Congress in his latest crusade against the government’s sweeping land ownership in Western states.

According to his son, Travis, Gerber, a father of six with 26 grandchildren, was surrounded by family when he died Saturday evening.

“Elko County lost one hell of a freedom fighter, a torchbearer for freedom,” said Elko County Commission Chairman Charlie Myers, who served with Gerber on the board of commissioners. “I don’t know who picks up that torch and carries it because he was certainly a freedom fighter that is going to be almost impossible to replace.”

Candidate for Governor Says She Wasn’t Fired by Her Family, but ‘Downsized’ - Daily Signal

Candidate for Governor Says She Wasn’t Fired by Her Family, but ‘Downsized’

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski / Kim Holmes / Kenric Ward / Gabriella Morrongiello / M.D. Kittle /

MADISON, Wis. — Responding to allegations she was fired from her family’s firm in the 1990s, Mary Burke now says she was a victim of downsizing at Trek Bicycle Corp.

“We reorganized and eliminated the position that I had, and I left that organization in charge of two other people who reported directly to the U.S,” said Burke, the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor, who was running the country’s division in Europe at the time.

Burke is running against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, in Tuesday’s election.

Burke was responding Wednesday to claims by multiple former Trek employees that she was fired from her family-owned business over poor performance and conduct issues.

She characterized the report as “ridiculous” and told repoters on Wednesday the story was nothing more than a “desperate” attempt to “undermine my credibility based on no evidence at all.”

But the former high-ranking Trek executive, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals, stuck to the story. “There was no reorganization,” the former executive said.

Multiple sources have said Burke was fired in 1993. But before she left, her family forced her to return to the Waterloo-based bike maker’s headquarters to apologize to about 35 managers for her treatment of employees and for the company’s plummeting European bottom line.

“She never made money in Europe when she was there …. Germany was gushing blood, and it would take profitability from everywhere else,” said another former employee, who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Gary Ellerman, who served as Trek’s human resources director from 1992 until 2004, recalled there was a “dark side to Mary that people at Trek have seen.”

“She can explode on people,” he said. “She can be the most cruel person you ever met.”

Mercurial, too, it seems. Sources said Burke decided to move Trek’s European headquarters from Frankfurt, Germany, to the Dutch port city of Amsterdam because she didn’t care for the German people and because Amsterdam better reflected her lifestyle.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin on Wednesday made a little political hay on Burke’s statement that her job was “eliminated.”

“You’d have to be a disaster to be let go from your family business,” said Joe Fadness, executive director of the state GOP.

Read more at Watchdog.org

Virginia Braces for Aftershocks from Wallops Rocket Explosion - Daily Signal

Virginia Braces for Aftershocks from Wallops Rocket Explosion

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski / Kim Holmes / Kenric Ward / Gabriella Morrongiello / M.D. Kittle / Kenric Ward /

The failed launch and fiery explosion at the Wallops Island spaceport could blow up Virginia’s projected financial windfall at the commercial site.

The state invested $26 million in 2009 to bring privately operated space flights to the Eastern Shore.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was estimated to generate $4.25 billion for Virginia’s economy through 2020. After the explosion Tuesday night, the short-term outlook isn’t so rosy.

“The complex is pretty much toasted. It was like a tactical nuclear warhead going off,” said Keith Cowing, who edits NASAWatch.com.

The question is: Who will pay for the massive repairs, the environmental cleanup and the $200 million in lost cargo and equipment bound for the International Space Station?

The rocket company, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., isn’t saying.

“Something went wrong and we will find out what that is. And we will determine the root cause, and we will correct that and come fly back at Wallops again,” said the company’s executive vice president, Frank Culbertson.  No casualties were reported.

Early speculation blames Orbital’s use of a 40-year-old Soviet rocket engine. Experts caution that other problems could have triggered the explosion that occurred six seconds after liftoff.

Neither the company nor NASA nor the state would speculate about the cost of restoring the Wallops site, or who would foot the bill.

Read more at Watchdog.org

Why Tunisia Might Be America’s First ‘Truly Democratic Partner’ in the Arab World - Daily Signal

Why Tunisia Might Be America’s First ‘Truly Democratic Partner’ in the Arab World

Gabriella Morrongiello / Hans von Spakovsky / James Sherk / Rob Nikolewski / Kim Holmes / Kenric Ward / Gabriella Morrongiello / M.D. Kittle / Kenric Ward / Josh Siegel /

Tunisia has been billed as the success story of the Arab Spring.

As countries such as Syria, Libya and Egypt struggle with conflict, Tunisia — the birthplace of the Arab Spring in December 2010 — is positioning itself as a rare source of freedom and democracy in the region.

“[Tunisia] offers the opportunity for the U.S. to have, for the first time, a truly democratic partner in the Arab world,” said M’Hamed Ezzine Chelaifa, the ambassador of Tunisia to the United States, who spoke at  The Heritage Foundation today about the future of his country.

Last weekend, Tunisians peacefully voted in their country’s first full parliamentary election under its new constitution, choosing the secular Nidaa Tounes as the dominant party, and knocking the Islamist party, Ennahda, into second place.

Just three years ago, the Islamists came to power after the revolution overthrew the government of longtime dictator President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

>>> Watch: ‘Tunisia: Moving Forward,’ a Heritage Foundation Event

Still, challenges remain for this North African country, which has struggled with terrorism and economic insecurity.

Some 3,000 young Tunisians have joined ISIS, the Sunni extremist group operating in Syria and Iraq, and Tunisian security forces have failed to contain the flow of Islamic extremism.

Before the Heritage event, Chelaifa spoke to the hope and troubles of Tunisia in an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal. Watch the video above.