Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012 Nobel Peace Prize Forum: Day 3

I had the treat of sitting next to one of the class presenters Dr. Ratcliff while we waited for the morning plenary session to start. What an engaging conversation to learn more about South Africa President, Nobel Laureate F. W. de Klerk from an expert just moments before the President would grace the stage to address the Forum! I'm a book junkie like many of you, so I'll pass on his recommendation for a good read: "The Writing of History" by Michel de Certeau.

Some of my take home lessons from President de Klerk's speech:
1) The right answer + the wrong timing = violence
2) Why did the Truth Commissions in South Africa succeed? The participants were prepared to enter without pre-conditions that would have prevented meaningful negotiations and action. They found out what they agreed upon first, then worked on making that list larger by tackling the easier little things. By reaching success in those things, they built confidence and were ready to try bigger things. "And things were just ripe for change" that they could not have accomplished at any other time. They were ready and committed when the right timing presented itself. He also recognized that participants in the negotiation process were choosing to be empathetic strategic thinkers, able to discern what was crucial and non-negotiable in the other party so they could move on and find common ground for compromise.

I was struck by his strength and confidence that was clearly balanced by humility in the way he presented his material. I didn't pick up on the vibe that he sees himself worthy of a pedestal any more than he thinks Mandela should or any laureate be on one. Like all leaders, they have had their bruises along the way. Those are the price for peace. This Nobel story tends to focus on the country's results, not the personal sacrifice of those who brought the policy of apartheid to an end. What a good reminder that anything good comes with a price --- and that we'll either pay for it now or pay for it later exponentially.