Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Night; Nobel Peace Forum

After a visit to the Peace Fair, I walked across the courtyard to the Opening Ceremony and Plenary Session.  The Prelude "Let us Reach for the World that Ought to Be" included a student-made video with photos and quotes of Nobel laureates.  I felt an air of expectation and awe. 
As 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi and the platform staff entered the auditorium, applause erupted and students jumped to their feet, lauding her for a long time.  Her diminutive stature reminded me of watching Mary Lou Retton accept her gold medal at the Olympics: poised, resolved and power packed.  After a greeting from Luther College President Richard Togerson, the all male Norsemen chorus performed the moving a capella anthem: "Prayer for the Children."  Gier Lundestad director of the Norwegian Noble Institute gave a warm greeting to the full, eager auditorium.  I sat next to two freshmen ladies from Augustana College, South Dakota.  They were soaking in the facial expressions of our speakers just like I was, and commented that they were similarly amazed that we were actually sitting in the front row. Here are my take-homes from the plenary session...
The theme was the "Courage to Act" and Dr. Ebadi clearly embodies this trait. 

COURAGE: She described her reaction to being demoted from serving as a judge to clerk simply because she was a woman and her ensuing protest.  She spoke of the human rights battle she has been waging.  She painted a picture of her cell for political prisoners, real threats on her life.  Then wide-eyed, she looked at the audience and said that fear is an instinct like hunger.  "When people face danger they will be scared.  But you must learn to overcome the fear.  Do not be afraid of being afraid."  She shared that the key to her overcoming this instinct was a strong belief in the path and her unwavering belief in God. 
FREEDOM: "Americans have forgotten how to fight for freedom at home. Be careful.  Do not let them take your freedom from you.  When the media is owned by only a few, freedom will disappear.  Ask your government to actually enforce the anti trust laws.  Freedom is like a flower. You can't pour a bucket of water on it and then walk away.  The flower will die.  You need to continue to fight for your freedom or you will lose it.  (When a direct threat comes we react but now Americans are lulled to sleep and have forgotten what they fought so hard to get.) Water it a little every day or you'll soon forget to water it at all.   Over time your freedom will slowly fade like the flower until it dies."
MANDATORY RELIGION: God is all powerful but yet He does not force Himself on us.  He gives us free will.  If God won't force His hand on us, how presumptuous would it be that man would force a religion on another?
SUCCESS: Know who your enemy is. (cause not necessarily person) Then if you are doing something that they don't like, something they regret, then you are on the right track.  Do something that makes your enemy upset.
LEGACY: When asked when the book of her life was closed, what shall the world say about how she moved the world.  She erupted with laughter and told us through the translator, "Why are you talking sad? I have no intention to die soon."  Her reaction completely caught the audience off guard and a contagious laughter filled the auditorium.  Dr. Ebadi was so personable, tangible, real, unprogrammed, unplugged.  Refreshing.  Then she finally did answer in third person "That she was a defender of human rights and willing to give up everything for her cause." 

After a personal greeting with Dr. Ebadi and getting my book signed, I wandered over to the Ethnic Arts Festival for some tasty international dishes and to visit booths where I got my event passport stamped.  I have attended a zillion missions fairs and hands down this was the absolute best one I have attended away from the Olympics.  I'm sitting there soaking it all in... How I wish that my board of directors was here to experience this and even more so, my six year old would have stayed up for this!

In true college fashion, I rolled into bed well after midnight.  The final dessert of my night before heading to the hotel was an inter-faith break out session that STARTED at 10 PM.  Each took turns sharing how they are bridging ideas and groups on their campuses.  I left hopeful, invigorated and believing our future is in good hands.