NOTE: Videos of many of the speakers for Mar 6, 7, 8 can be accessed here. See also, posts for March 7, 8, 9 and 10.
The opening of this years Forum began with an inspiring surprise: the “>1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by then 34-year old Martin Luther King Jr. This clip was especially appropriate given that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, for which King and others campaigned for many years; and gives particular context to the film, Selma, set in March of 1965, just months after Dr. King won the Peace Prize. (Tomorrow, Saturday, March 7, is the 50th anniversary of the first march in Selma, where over 500 protestors were attacked by the police.)
(click to enlarge this or any photo)
Friday, March 6, brought eight hours of inspiration featuring numerous speakers (here is the day one program: Peace Prize Forum Mar 6001
Gro Harlem Bruntland, Daniel Wordsworth of American Refugee Committee, Monica McWilliams, all had inspiring messages.
Ending the day, 2002 Laureate Jimmy Carter, U.S. President 1977-1981, gave an inspiring talk. He is one of my all-time favorite Presidents, much maligned (very unfairly, in my opinion) when running for a second term in 1980; now without question one of the most visible and active retired world leaders post-term, working for good in the world. He and Rosalind’s Carter Center takes on the impossible, regularly.
The messages of President Carter, Elder Gro Harlem Brundtland and Monica McWilliams can all be viewed here. Several of the Saturday and Sunday programs will also be broadcast live on-line, and later on video as these talks are.
Each general session speaker had very strong messages of hope, built on the speakers very long personal experience dealing with very tough issues: realities, on the ground, in this imperfect world of ours.
Consistently, speakers such as these are quick to emphasize that the solutions to the major problems rest not with people like themselves, but rather with citizen activists, no matter how humble in circumstance, village by village, city to city, farm by farm.
Succinctly, we, each of us, not them, or someone else named on the news, are the real solution. A better world comes one small piece at a time, through us.
Time after time, over many years of listening to people who made a difference, I get the sense that they are simply courageous realists: they faced a reality that was impossible; assessed the environment; stuck their neck out beyond their comfort zone; and worked and worked and worked and worked…pragmatically…towards some ideal.
In some ways, it is a hard message, but consistently how success is finally achieved.
The Dialogue Session I chose was troubling yet very informative and hopeful: “The Dark Side of the Boom: Seeking Solutions for Human Exploitation and Trafficking in North Dakota’s Oil Patch” was a collaborative program of iEmpathize and North Dakota Force to End Sexual Exploitation (FUSE). As a son of North Dakota, who lived in “the oil patch” during its earliest boom as a 13 year old in 1953-54, I found the program of particular interest and the speakers to be very knowledgeable.
A new 26-minute video produced by iEmpathize was shown. Information about the video, including a trailer, is at their website (link, above).
The latest of President Carter’s many books, “A Call to Action. Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” gives 23 suggestions for anyone wondering what they, personally, can do as their own, personal “Call to Action”. The suggestions can be read, here. They are found on pages 196-198 of the book which is an excellent one for discussion in book club formats, as well as for individual reading.
Here are a few other snapshots I took during this first, inspiring, day:
Post-note: President Carter’s Vice-President Walter Mondale was to introduce the President, but it was announced he had been hospitalized with the flu. President Carter, now 90, noted that he and Rosalind, his wife, have been married 69 years, and that he still does his “Sunday School” at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.
On Sunday, March 8, from 11:30 to 1 p.m., one of the dialogue sessions will be our long-time friend Annelee Woodstrom, who will speak about Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Annelee, now 88, lived the reality of Hitler’s Germany as a young person in a German small town, from 1933-45. She is very frank about what happened and why. I have heard her speak many times. She is well worth hearing. I think a few tickets for Sunday are still available. The Focus this day will be issues related to inclusivity. If you’re in the area, and free, come on down…but get your ticket first!