January 11, 2016

Hilton freshman get firsthand account of life in Iran

Hilton ninth-graders listened attentively as Madeleine Gasdik recounted her childhood as the daughter of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent. The presentation followed the students’ reading of the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, an autobiography about growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution.

Gasdik, who is now director of the Alleghany County Office for the Aging, was born in Pakistan, then lived in what was then Saigon, Vietnam before moving to Tehran, Iran where she attended an American high school. “I have many fond memories of living in Iran and miss it,” she said. “The Persians are kind, loving and compassionate people.”

Gasdik also recounted how, while living in Saigon, her house would shake when tanks went by and how her family would hide in her parent’s windowless bedroom when there was gunfire.

Gasdik invited Mark Lijek to speak to the students over the phone from his home in Seattle. Lijek is one of the six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran and taking of embassy personnel as hostages by Islamist students and militants on November 4, 1979. Under the ruse that they were a film crew from Canada, the diplomats were able to escape to Switzerland. The Academy Award winning 2012 film Argo was based on the operation.

“Everyone you meet has their own story,” Lijek told the students. “It is important to listen.”

The presentation was part of “IB Day” where students engage in special presentations and projects to put into practice the traits of the International Baccalaureate learner profile. For example, the trait of open mindedness involves critically appreciating one’s own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others. Students seek and evaluate a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.