May 4, 2012
Greensburg — CHICAGO, ILL. - Wednesday, April 25 was the third and final day of the World Summit for Nobel Peace Laureates conference, attended by teacher John Pratt and a group of students.
The final day of the 2012 World Summit for Nobel Peace Laureates began, for the most part, like all the others.
Students were ushered into an auditorium after passing through minor security Ñ most likely due to the fact that actor/activist Sean Penn was attending Ñ and seated.
Outside, the crowd continued to flow in, passing the metal detectors. As was the case in the two days prior, there were two panels of Nobel Laureates scheduled for the day.
The first consisted of four panelists, from various organizations such as the International Peace Bureau and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, discussing "A World without Nuclear Weapons." The second, with such people as the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev, was entitled "World Peace and Nonviolence: Never Give Up."
The first discussion began with a history lesson.
As younger members of the audience, the students listened to the moderator of the discussion briefly outline the fears and issues associated with the Cold War. Dr. Ira Helfand of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War began the discussion by explaining the implications of a nuclear detonation. He broke down the various radii of the blast range, ending with a 16 mile radius, in which the heat from the blast would be so intense that everything flammable would burn and, as Helfand said, "everything would die."
After this intense moment of solemnity, the panelists discussed the issues with nuclear warfare and possibilities for world-wide nuclear disarmament. With the U.S. spending $7 billion every year to maintain the bombs we currently have, it becomes easy to see why nuclear disarmament would not only help in a safety sense, but also an economic one. When people are going hungry in Pakistan, but their government is building bombs, we have to look and see what we are doing wrong and what we can start to do right. Nuclear disarmament begins with nations, and should be pushed by NATO and the UN. As one panelist mentioned, "A future in which we live in fear of nuclear attack is not one that must be, but one that may be." We need to look at our current priorities and re-adjust how we approach nuclear weaponry.
After this panel, the stage was taken by the entire group of laureates, who stood as Sean Penn was presented the 2012 Peace Summit Award, for his humanitarian work in Haiti. He took the podium and began to speak.
Through a great many emotional words, he urged the audience to help in times of crisis. As he said, Haiti is a "one and a half hour flight from Miami, one of the richest cities in the richest country in the world." He also remarked on the political position of the country, remarking on everything from the oil industry paralyzing our government to the fact that "no president will ever succeed alone" and that we must take part in our political system. After Penn's speech, a Fiat/Chrysler representative took the stage. He spoke how Fiat looks at peace like a long term business plan. As he said, people living in peace and prosperity are happy and happy people buy cars.
This idea of peace and happiness carried into the final panel of the summit, which was about the importance of peace and nonviolence in our world. When asked about nonviolence, Professor Jodi Williams stated that "peace is not for wimps." It takes a great amount of courage and control to fight with words and actions rather than fists and guns.
The Dalai Lama brought up the idea that nonviolence and peace is all about communication and that those who do not pursue these ends frequently have "no ears, only mouths." They refuse to listen to other opinions or respect the differences of other people. He stated that we should "always respect the different views of different people." He also said that nonviolence and peace must start on the family level and progress through the community, national, and world level.
Professor Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh spoke about his methods of creating peace and prosperity. He received the Nobel Prize for starting a bank that provides loans to people that have little credit and who could not get loans from existing banks. He compared poor people to bonsai trees: When you plant a bonsai tree, you take good seeds from a large tree and place them in a pot. No matter how much cultivation you give to the tree, it will not grow large. The explanation for this can be only the pot. If you were to remove the tree from the pot, it would grow large and strong. In the same way, if the poor are removed from the system that is perpetuating their poverty, they can grow strong and support themselves. To this end, Professor Yunus's bank provides loans to the poor to help them help themselves.
He also presented the idea that if you pitted all of human creativity against all of the problems in the world, the creativity would win every time. However, this creativity is being wasted in the corporate world. The system we have created makes poverty the fault of the system, not the individual. As Yunus puts it, "why did we build a system where 50 percent of the people [in the world] are unemployed?" Former president Gorbachev summed up the discussion by saying: "We need a new system. More just. More stable. More humane."
The third and final day closed with a quick speech and a dismissal of the guests. The laureates and attendees were thanked and the summit was officially closed. The conference was attended by many youth and watched by thousands worldwide through the Internet. The entire emphasis was on what the next generation can do to help the world. The laureates realize that their generation is closing and the next one, whether it is fair or not, must take on the problems. The conference urged people to be humane, and to help other people as much as possible. As we students boarded a bus and left Chicago with a great experience, I felt a a new found sense of purpose and drive. Perhaps the best way to sum up the conference is with a quote by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martin Luther King Jr: "It's all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps."