I am back in Houston. I am very fortunate to be apart of the 20% of the city with power & water. It is going to be at least a week or two before the city is up and running but with each passing day more and more is re-opening. The lines for food and gas are horrendous. Even places like Starbucks have lines outside like at the bar, for every one person out, one gets to go in. It is a test of patience.
During Ike I had the opportunity to join my mom, brother and 9 other high school students from my mom’s high school in Los Angeles for an International Peace Jam conference. The organization joins youth with Nobel Peace Laureates to create awareness and inspire the leaders of tomorrow to carry out social justice work. Unfortunately, the Dali Lama was too sick to attend. The current president of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta was not there either as he is still in recovery after being shot three times this past February in an assassination attempt. But, there were 7 laureates present, including my personal favorite, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
It was a very inspiring conference. It was a personal reminder that there is something each of us should always be working for to make this world a better, more just and peaceful place, no matter how busy we think we are. One of my all time favorite quotes is by Philo, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The most moving testament of the weekend was from a young Burmese woman who works with Ung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate who has been on house arrest in Burma for the greater part of the past 20 years for her demands for freedom in Burma. The young woman spoke of the murders, rape and torture that are common place in her native Burma. No Burmese family goes unharmed. Jodie Williams stated it best when she said, “willful ignorance (of the world’s problems) is not an option.” Below are just a few of the wise words spoken by a few of the Laureates over the past days:
Betty Williams: “The greatest killer in our world is apathy.” “You have to work one person at a time.”
Desmond Tutu: “Nobel Laureates don’t just drop down from Heaven, they are ordinary people just like you”
Rigoberta Menchu Tum: “The world doesn’t stop for forgiveness, it just asks for more and more.”
“Each person has to change what they can today and tomorrow they can change more”
“Greed, envy, individualism and an excessive materialism are altering the human experience and causing a lack of equilibrium in the world. I believe the inequality has also generated racism, the sickness of discrimination. The world has lost values and it must begin again. Beginning again means much humility.”
Adolfo Perez Esquivel: “What we sow, we will reap, if we sow hatred, we will reap hatred, if we sow peace, we will reap peace”
“As people, we have to build bridges amongst ourselves- we have to build bridges of humanity and peace in order to confront the conflicts and the war, the violence that we see and the we experience throughout our world.”
While Jose Ramos-Horta was not present I think that he sums up our moral responsibility well . . .”If those in power, wherever we are, whichever country but also at whatever level in society that we are leaders, began working together, we would eliminate abject poverty and ensure that poverty becomes history in twenty years from now. It’s a moral duty of any of us as human beings.”