Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Cowboy American' Returning to NATO

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Cowboy American' Returning to NATO

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan Brandenburg, Shorelines correspondent

After being put on the defensive and called a "Cowboy American" at a diplomacy forum last year, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident is returning to NATO headquarters in Brussels to practice his foreign policy skills.

Tomorrow, Chris Freedman will depart for his second session as a United States delegate to the Atlantic Youth Conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

A "think tank" of young leaders, ages 20 to 30, the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association is a forum for dialogue and diplomacy between member and non-member nations of NATO and the Partnership for Peace.

"It will be a reunion with good friends from several countries," said Freedman, 25, who was a delegate at the 7th Portuguese Atlantic Youth Seminar last year. He returned from that seminar on Sept. 11, 2002, after experiencing a bomb scare on the streets of Lisbon and backpacking around Europe.

"This year, when I board the plane for Brussels on Sept. 11, I'll take with me new understanding and deep resolve to become that strong American voice in the wilderness of world politics," Freedman said.

Last year's seminar was a real eye-opener, he said.

"At first, the other delegates called me a 'Cowboy American' and there were some negative things said about the United States that put me on the defensive," Freedman said. "It took a good bit of after-hours socializing for us to really get to know each other as real people with common goals."

A 2001 University of Florida graduate with a bachelor's in building construction, Freedman is president and CEO of two residential land development companies, The Almand Group and Jadoch Developers.

Last year, he was contacted by Atlantic Treaty Association member Russell Bryant, and asked to serve as the U.S. delegate for the youth forum.

"Russell told me that he 'scouts' for young, open-minded thinkers to act as American diplomats for YATA," Freedman said. "I felt honored that he put me in that category."

Freedman grew up on Jacksonville's Southside and graduated from The Bolles School. …

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