I’ve been in La Habana, Cuba this week, attending a series of meetings related to my day job at the University of Michigan.  During a walk near my hotel, I met this wonderful man, who would not share his name.  But he would gladly pose for a portrait in exchange for a couple of chavitos. Here’s the result.

L1000843 copy 2.JPG

The most beautiful part of my job is meeting the world’s most beautiful people.

This brings me to another point: There isn’t a single person I met in Cuba who has a hate on for America. Not a single one.

However, in a just a few short days, I’ve met dozens of people wishing for a better life.  And, while there’s an appetite for consumerism here—Nike shoes and iPhones—there’s an even stronger desire for more basic needs: Infrastructure improvements, modernization of the agricultural sector, better regulations to protect human and environmental health, and legitimacy on the world stage.

I’ll confess at the outset to not being an expert on Cuban-American relations.  But, if America’s experiences with the likes of China, Myanmar, and Mexico are any indication, the path to friendship and trust is dialogue.  It’s not hubristic appeals to anti-Castro Americans by promising to “get tough” on Cuba. It’s not closing down the U.S. Embassy, which serves as a beacon of hope to many young Cubans.  And, it’s not more sanctions on a country that is already suffering under significant economic hardship.

In Cuba’s case, it’s going to be leadership by example that does the trick: Dialogue and openness that leads Cuba’s political leaders to put a stop to the repression of internal dissent, and to introduce much-needed political reform.  To suggest otherwise reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature, not to mention history.

It’s Thursday the 16th of February, 2017.  It’s not a normal day.

Follow me on Twitter at @DecisionLab