The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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George Abed Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

December 16, 2014


“An Economist and Policymaker Works to Stabilize the Middle East”  December 16, 2014  Location: Institute for International Finance, Washington, D.C.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Abed discusses his upbringing in Palestine and his family background, his early education, and his decision to move to the United States and pursue further schooling at Oregon State College.

In recalling his Oregon State years, Abed notes his initial impressions of Corvallis before describing his academic progression, including his shift away from engineering in favor of the social sciences. He recounts his heavy involvement in student government and reflects on his experiences as Oregon State's first foreign-born student body president. He likewise recounts his association with other student groups while an undergraduate, including three different fraternities and a Model United Nations, and shares his memories of meeting three major political figures - John F. Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller and Mark Hatfield. He concludes his reflection on his Oregon State experience by discussing Linus Pauling's clash with the institution, which was on-going during Abed's tenure on campus.

Abed next describes his stint in graduate school at the University of Oregon before outlining his decision to move away from the study of law and toward economics. His relocation to Berkeley to commence Ph.D. studies and his participation in student activism while a doctoral candidate round out his description of his life as a student.

The arc of Abed's career in international development is a major focus of the interview. In this, he discusses his hire by the International Monetary Fund, his initial activities in Lebanon and Iraq, the impact made by the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, and the beginnings of the Lebanese civil war. From there he reflects on the creation of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Welfare Association, as well as his role in their respective evolutions.

Abed next discusses the specifics of his interests in professional economics, international development and policy creation, as well as the ways in which these interests have changed over time. He also details his involvement with the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), his interactions with Yasser Arafat, the invitation that he received from Mahmoud Abbas to join the Palestinian government, and the successes to which he contributed as head of the PMA.

The session concludes with Abed's memories of the financial crisis of 2008 and his subsequent involvement with the Institute of International Finance. He reflects on the ways in which his Palestinian roots have impacted his approach to work, shares his thoughts on potential pursuits in retirement, and offers his advice to today's students.