Alumni Profile • Amin Kawar '86
Prepared to be postmaster general

In late December, when the prime minister of Jordan appointed him postmaster general, Amin Kawar ’86 was asked what prepared him to take on the task of reforming that country’s postal system. His answer? “The full, well-rounded education I got at Calvin College.”

He means more than the courses he took. An economics major at Calvin, Kawar wanted, after graduation, to do social development work. But with the economy in Jordan weak at the time, he took, he says, “the easy way out”: He joined the family shipping business.

Starting as a port supervisor, discharging cargo from arriving ships, Kawar moved around the business, working a variety of jobs – salesman, claims adjustor, shipbroker. From 1999-2002 he worked on a joint venture with an American company to privatize rail lines in Jordan, a venture that failed.

Returning full time to the shipping business, Kawar’s “keenness, since Calvin, to work in the public sector” gnawed at him. “To be honest,” he said, “I was not spiritually satisfied working in business. At Calvin I learned we are each born for a purpose, given talents for that purpose, and if we’re not living that purpose we’re dissatisfied. I was working in a job others aspire to, doing well financially, and always complaining about it – then feeling bad about that. I realized I wasn’t doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Kawar decided to take a leave of absence from the business – by then he was corporate development director – to look for something more. Several months later he was asked if he would consider the job of postmaster general. Officials were attracted by Kawar’s knowledge of the country’s transportation systems, his experience at trying to privatize a government service and his position as a political outsider. Approved by Jordan’s cabinet, he assumed the post on January 2.

Overstaffed and long neglected, Jordan’s postal system is badly in need of reform, Kawar said. But the challenge is one he is glad for: “I view it not as a job, but a mission.”

That’s because Kawar hopes to do more than improve and modernize postal services. “The passionate part of my program,” Kawar said, “is to turn the postal system into a conduit for community development. There are all kinds of training and self-help programs available – organized by the government and non-governmental organizations – but often they don’t reach the needy, remote places. Since there is a post office in every village, we can become a distribution network for that aid money. Also, I hope through our network we can bring the benefits of the IT [information technology] revolution to all our people, even if they’re not IT users themselves.”

A formidable mission. Kawar also credits his alma mater with giving him the wherewithal to take it on: “At Calvin you learn how to learn, and you learn how to listen to others’ ideas. So, whenever a new challenge comes, you accept it, because you know you can learn how to do it.”

Kawar invites correspondence from former classmates at amin@nets.com.jo.