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When I went to Tehran in 2011 to interview then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, relations with the U.S. were at a low, and distrust between the two nations was at a high. So it was unsurprising that Iran's leader played to type perfectly, spouting nasty rhetoric when he sat down with me.
What was surprising was the stance of the ordinary people – Iranians on the street, in cafes, at my hotel – who expressed an admiration for America and an interest in improving relations across the board.
But not everybody gets the chance to travel to Iran and meet the locals as I did. Well, we found the next best thing. Inside an art gallery in downtown Manhattan sits a large, golden box. It may look like a fancy shipping container, but enter and you'll discover it is actually a "portal" to Iran.
The artist Amar Bakshi, a former GPS producer, set up a web-connected camera in New York and partnered with an artist to do the same in Tehran, enabling face-to-face conversations between people who would not otherwise meet. Despite being 6,000 miles and a world apart, participants can easily slide into conversation with each other about their daily lives. Some even demonstrate their passions, like this dance.
I went into the portal and spoke with several Iranians about their lives and their country and how they see the U.S. Perhaps President Obama and Rouhani should meet this way – call it a diplomatic dance.