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Envisioning a More Peaceful World: Leading Thinkers Speak Out on Peace and an Upcoming Summit

Posted: 05/11/11 06:51 PM ET

Featuring exclusive remarks from Cory Booker, Majora Carter, Deepak Chopra, Shirin Ebadi, Donna Karan, Martin Luther King, III, Elizabeth Kucinich, Somaly Mam, Soledad O'Brien, Zainab Salbi, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman and Marianne Williamson

We are living in a time of global instability and unrest that provides fertile ground for dramatic change and transformation. The recent death of Osama bin Laden only seems to add to this feeling. His death, and the aftermath, have served to deepen what I think is a very healthy questioning of the roles we play -- individually, as a society, and as a country within the global environment. Looking at the far-ranging responses to his death, from sober reflection to exuberant celebration, it feels more important now than ever to put our focus not on a continuing cycle of violence that brings more death, but instead on efforts that contribute to life -- our global safety and health as well as our own personal health and well-being. So I was very excited to find out about an upcoming event that I think will contribute greatly to a movement away from war, violence, destruction of our environment and mounting individual stress, to one of openness, kindness, love of humanity, and a greater caring for ourselves and the Earth. It is this focus that will produce the deep peace we all long for.

The Newark Peace Education Summit is a three-day conference which will focus on peacemaking practices from around the world. Inspired by the teachings and practices of peace leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, the summit (which will be held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center May 13-15, 2011 and is co-convened by Tibet House and The Drew A. Katz Foundation) will highlight peacemaking as a way for individuals, families, communities and nations to resolve conflicts and problems. Nobel Peace Laureates, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who will be involved in the first two days of the summit, Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights advocate, and Jody Williams, the American anti-landmine activist, will be among the many peace leaders speaking at the panel sessions. Other panelists and workshop leaders include: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Martin Luther King III, Robert Thurman, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Goldie Hawn, Donna Karan, Van Jones, Jeffrey Sachs, Majora Carter, Zainab Salbi, Russell Simmons among many other distinguished peace advocates from a wide cross section of cultures, disciplines and perspectives.

Since there are so many diverse and interesting perspectives being represented at the summit, I thought that a interesting way to highlight the event, and it's extremely valuable themes, would be to do a "round up" -- posing the same three questions about the conference and the notion of peace to a cross-section of the distinguished activists and thinkers who are participating. I hope that these thoughtful and inspiring answers will encourage people to attend this important event. For those who are unable to attend, I hope this piece will get us all reflecting upon and sharing with each other how we, as the powerful individual forces that we are, can contribute to peace -- in ourselves, our families, our communities and the planet . May we hold in our hearts the vision of a more peaceful world in which we understand our interdependence as well as the interconnection of the many issues we face. As the Dalai Lama said, "Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free."

In alphabetical order: Cory Booker, Majora Carter, Deepak Chopra, Shirin Ebadi, Donna Karan, Martin Luther King, III, Elizabeth Kucinich, Somaly Mam, Soledad O'Brien, Zainab Salbi, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Marianne Williamson

Cory Booker

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?

CB: Those people who seek peace must realize that this is not a passive thing -- it necessitates action. As Martin Luther King said, "Man's inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good." We need a far more proactive agenda for people. It is not a matter of can we; it's a matter of do we have the collective will.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
CB: The conference will be a gathering of local and global peace leaders who are engaged in efforts to create peace within our global community from many different approaches. From peace within one mind and spirit, to how we relate to each other, person-to-person, country-to-country, and religion-to-religion -- there is not one major theme we hope to convey. Our goal is to elevate the dialogue, to learn form one another and realize how we can be better servants to humanity's highest calling.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
CB: Most importantly, I hope that people gain practical and substantive means by which to better engage their immediate lives and communities as agents of peace. In the end, if we want the world to change, we have to be better activists for peace ourselves. I hope that we will become better leaders for a more peaceful society, and our work can provide light, hope and inspiration for others.

Cory A. Booker is the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, which will host The Newark Peace Education Summit. Elected with a clear mandate for change, Mayor Booker has begun work on realizing a bold vision for the city. Newark's mission is to set a national standard for urban transformation by marshalling its resources to achieve security, economic abundance and an environment that is nurturing and empowering for individuals and families.

* * *

Majora Carter

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
MC: I believe that setting a goal of environmental equality would lead us there most quickly. That's because a great deal of our current domestic and international conflicts can trace their roots back to dirty-energy. Whether one looks at the extraction, refining, or burning of fossil fuels, there is always a large degree of environmental sacrifice involved. It may be bad for the polar bears, but it is definitely bad for the people who live in proximity to any of these activities in terms of their public health. The ability of our so called leaders to continually claim that dirty-energy is "cheaper" is only viable if we do not account for the human suffering involved.

If we focus on the ability of all people to have equal access to clean air, water and soil, then a cascade of changes would ripple throughout our energy, agricultural, and waste handling systems in order to meet that goal.

This in turn would reduce: conflict over energy resources, conflicts based on the poverty dirty-energy enables, and conflict as a result on the lower educational attainment which proximity to fossil fuel emissions is known to cause - a leading indicator of how likely one will enter a prison here in the U.S.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
MC:
I am going to help people focus on domestic inequality and poverty alleviation here in the US through the advancement of green-infrastructure and climate-adaptation projects. If there are opportunities for me to help foster these ideas abroad as well, I will be happy to explore options to do so.

People everywhere can benefit from an increased sense of what I call, "Home(town) Security" -- that is, an increased interdependence on their neighbors and regional businesses to provide for their energy and food needs, and less on long-distance suppliers that often carry an environmental sacrifice borne by poor people near and far.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
MC:
I hope people -- especially the Americans in attendance -- will have a better understanding that one doesn't have to look across oceans to find some struggle for peace that they are looking to join.

The problems in America's own house that are so easily overlooked today will undermine any future efforts made abroad.

I also hope more people will agree in the value of "Home(town) Security", and that it can be most cost effectively accomplished through accessible job creation. Many of the social service support systems we pour billions of dollars into through government and philanthropic spending, can be obviated by the creation of accessible family wage jobs. The dignity-effect that these jobs produce is a powerful multiplier towards the success of individuals and their families towards building peaceful communities everywhere.

Majora Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 and by 2003 had implemented the highly successful Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST) program -- a pioneering green-collar job training and placement system -- seeding communities with a skilled workforce that has both a personal & economic stake in their urban environment. She is currently president of the green-collar economic consulting firm the Majora Carter Group, LLC.

* * *

Deepak Chopra


What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
DC:
The only way lasting peace that can occur is when we become the change we want to see in the world. Peace can only be created by those who are peaceful. Love can only be shown by people who love. No social transformation can occur in the absence of personal transformation. We have enough angry peace activists and don't need more. Moral outrage adds violence even if it is for a good reason; it is rage. Even when the outrage is for the right reasons; it is still rage and perpetuates violence in the world.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
DC:
I am presenting a seminar on the neuroscience of enlightenment and the biological correlates of spirituality.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
DC:
I hope people realize that they hold immense power in their own beings to create a peaceful, just, sustainable and healthy world.

Deepak Chopra M.D. is the Founder and Chairman of the Chopra Foundation, and Founder and co-Chairman of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. Chopra's Wellness Radio airs weekly on Sirius/XM Stars, Channels 102 and 155. He is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post On Faith, and contributes regularly to Oprah.com, Intent.com, and Huffington Post.

* * *
Shirin Ebadi


What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
SE:
Lasting piece is built on two pillars: democracy and social justice. In a society where there is no freedom, and they try to repress their own people with bullets and violence, there can be no lasting peace. In a society with class differences and where a great majority of the population is poor, sooner or later that society will lose its stability. Democracy and social justice are the true foundations for lasting peace.

Shirin Ebadi, J.D., was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote human rights, in particular, the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in Iran. She is the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and only the fifth Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize in any field. She is a co-founder of the Nobel Women's Initiative.

* * *
Donna Karan


What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
DK: Dropping the "me" and thinking of the "we," realizing that this world is one for the whole of humanity and that the higher forces are letting us know something through the turmoil of the environment.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
DK:
I will be speaking about a new model of "Philanthropy and Commerce" and explaining why I think it's important for them to be collaborative or supportive of one another. I know how to dress people so they look good on the outside but I also want to help them feel good on the inside, in body, mind and spirit, by introducing a combination of healthcare, education and cultural wisdom. I want people to understand that we all must collaborate if we are to survive the future.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
DK: A sense of importance and urgency, that we're all in it together and that the only way to accomplish and realize the love and peace we each want, is to share it with one another throughout the world.

Fashion icon Donna Karan seeks not only to dress one's outside, but to address their inside, mind, body and spirit. In 2007, she founded the Urban Zen Foundation, dedicated to three interconnected objectives: Preservation of Culture (The Past) Integrative Healthcare (The Present) and the Empowerment of Children (The Future.) Currently, Karan is working with The Clinton Global Initiative to develop and support sustainable Haitian opportunities for US consumerism.

* * *

Martin Luther King, III

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
MLKIII:
I hope people come away with a real sense of hope and understanding -- hope for a more peaceful world, and understanding for the urgent need for more peace education. I hope summit participants gain a deeper insight into the principles of nonviolence as taught by my father and a sense that these teachings are as relevant today as they were back then. I hope we develop faith in the power of nonviolence to create peace in our homes, communities, nations and world. If all of the conference participants walk away with greater faith in the power of nonviolence, then we will have accomplished something very worthwhile.

As the oldest son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, III is carrying the torch lit by both of his parents into the 21st century. Martin's dedication to creating and implementing strategic nonviolent action to rid the world of social, political, and economic injustice has propelled him to the forefront as one of the nation's most ardent advocates for the poor, the oppressed, and the disillusioned.

* * *

Elizabeth Kucinich

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
EK:
Talking about "world peace" is very abstract and lofty. There is also a very broad definition of peace - it is not only the absence of violence and war, it is living in harmony with nature, compassionate, living gently and considerately, mindfully and with purpose. It's difficult to imagine peace in our own family relationships and communities, let alone the entire world with all its complexities, personalities and political undercurrents.

Therefore I take a different approach, a "bite size" approach. Each one of us has the capacity to take responsibility for peace in our own lives, and simplest and greatest way with the most immediate impact is through our choice of diet. 75 million animals are killed every day for food in the USA alone, having lived a short brutal life of cramped conditions, drugs, and violence. Livestock production is the largest single contributing factor to climate change -- a whopping 51 percent according to the World Watch report, "Livestock and Climate Change." It is also responsible for the greatest amount of water use and pollution, land erosion and hunger -- with it taking 8lbs of grain to produce 1lb of ground beef. We are losing our rainforests at a rampant pace for largely GMO crops grown for animal feed and cattle ranching. We are not only killing animals and the planet with our choice of diet, we are also killing ourselves, with rising rates of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, to name but a few, all completely preventable and also reversible with an organic vegan (plant-based) diet. We choose to bring about peace or suffering three times a day with each meal.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
EK:
Those of us who strive for peace in the world understand that the outer world merely reflects our inner state of being. So too, our bodies resonate to the vibration of that which we nourish them. For this and many other reasons, our choice of food has both a deep consequence on our own health, and also the well-being of the entire world. Because of this, being mindful about our food choices is the most important single step an individual can take to bring about peace in the world.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
EK:
Activism can be daunting and debilitating, continually striving for what others may perceive is the impossible. I hope that my workshop particularly, and the conference as a whole, will lift spirits and create a renewed sense community and excitement, possibility and empowerment, with hearts and minds ready to address their own health and the health of the world through simple compassionate choices and enlightened actions.

Elizabeth J. Kucinich is a longtime peace and human rights advocate and champion for improved human health, the environment, and animal-protection. Elizabeth Kucinich is the Director of Public and Government Affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

* * *

Somaly Mam

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
SM:
I think people need to be more affected by the suffering of others. I do not mean outraged, I just mean they need to want to help. I think part of this is that a lot of people maybe do not know how much suffering there is in the world and it is our job to speak for the victims who cannot speak for themselves. However, I believe that we can find ways to inform people and help people without any violence. As I always say the most important thing is to forgive. We can be upset that people are suffering but then to help them as survivors or as just any person we have to forgive before we can start to heal ourselves and others. Maybe there are some people that do not think forgiveness is possible, but I am an example, and I hope my example like so many others at this conference can inspire people to help in a way of peace that is effective. Violence to fight violence only makes more violence. Humanity has to change its perception that force is the way to create change. Patience and love and education (understanding) is the way we need to think to make change.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
SM:
I will be speaking on the "Peace in the Home" plenary session. There are so many other wonderful leaders on the stage with me and I hope I will learn from them too. I know from my work in the field and from my own life that peace starts in the home. A home with violence and abuse starts you in a life that seems like there is no hope. I try to give hope and opportunities to the girls in my shelters who never knew love, never knew hope, all they knew from a very young age is violence and fear. Again I want to help them forgive and to learn that to heal themselves they can heal others. My girls and I are a new family with hope and love we can go forward to a better future and teach by example to other people that we can change our lives and empower each other. I see everyday women who have grown up alone with only beatings and rapes and they are angry and they hurt others. Instead I want to help, to save these young girls from that cycle that they can learn to love others, to love themselves, and be empowered to break the cycle. The home is where this starts.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
SM:
Again, I hope to learn from all the other amazing people who are also speaking at this summit. I speak to a lot of people in many different forums but I also listen, I listen to victims, to survivors, to people's words but also to their hearts. I think I can always make my words stronger and better and maybe one day we will all have the same message of peace. Even though we all come from different places and different cultures we can all help each other. I hope to be inspired by everyone and I hope I can inspire people too. I also hope that when we all go home from this event we can keep working together even if not actually in the same place so we do not lose what we learned at the summit. We have to keep moving forward and I hope many others will join our efforts and that all together we can inspire people for peace, cooperation and love.

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. Her book, The Road of Lost Innocence, recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. She has orchestrated raids on brothels and rescued sex workers, some as young as five and six; she has built shelters, started schools, and founded an organization that has so far saved more than four thousand women and children in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.

* * *
Soledad O'Brien


What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
SO:
To achieve lasting world piece human beings need to value every living person -- in every region of the globe. There has to be a sense that every person has value -- regardless of where they live, their economic status, how they are 'different' from us. In addition, realizing that we have a global responsibility to help others who are impoverished and un and under-educated would go a long way to connecting us literally and emotionally to other counterparts around the world.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
SO:
At the conference I am part of a panel tackling issues of parity in education.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
SO:
My biggest hope is that people will come away from our panel and the conference understanding that as challenging as the issues are--there ARE solutions. And that there is a tremendous sense of urgency--we need to fix these problems NOW.

Soledad O'Brien is an anchor and special correspondent for CNN/U.S. Since joining the network in 2003, O'Brien has reported breaking news from around the globe and has produced award-winning, record-breaking and critically acclaimed documentaries on the most important stories facing the world today. She also covers political news as part of CNN's "Best Political Team on Television."

* * *

Zainab Salbi

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
ZS:
As I have seen through the work we do at Women for Women International, it is vital that women are represented fairly in any kind of reconciliation process. While we have made a great deal of progress, women still aren't part of the peace negotiations, and we only need to look to Iraq and Afghanistan to see that. They should be given that right and it's something I'm going to continue to work very hard to achieve.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
ZS:
I hope to be able to express why the work we do is so incredibly important. Eighty percent of the world's refugees are women and children. They are our hope for the future, so it's hugely important we invest in them 100 percent through education and employment initiatives. I'll be speaking about how we've served nearly 300,000 achieve better lives in some of the harshest environments in the world.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
ZS:
I hope people will come away realizing how we all need to be more responsible and more committed to helping those who truly need it the most. After all, a more stable world is better for all of us.

Zainab Salbi is Founder and CEO of Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization helping women survivors of wars rebuild their lives. Since 1993, the organization has helped 271,000 women survivors of wars access social and economic opportunities through a program of rights awareness training, vocational skills education and access to income generating opportunities, thereby ultimately contributing to the political and economic health of their communities.

* * *

Sharon Salzberg

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
SS:
We need to know that all our lives are inextricably interwoven, that what each of us does matters, and that what happens "over there" never just nicely stays "over there" -- we need new ways of thinking based on the truth of how interconnected we all are. We need to care both about ourselves and others. We need to experience the phenomenal and unusual joy of inner peace, so we have the resiliency and resourcefulness to work for external peace in a sustained way.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
SS:
I am leading a workshop on fierce compassion. So often we think of love and compassion as signs of weakness, as a lack of discernment, or as passivity. Or we think of them as secondary virtues, as though to say "Well, if you can't be brave and you can't be courageous and you can't be wonderful, be kind. It's not that great, but it's something." Whereas the reality is that qualities like kindness and compassion are vibrant, powerful, intelligent and can be quite fierce as well as gentle. They aren't passive at all, but instead are the roots of a whole other vision of possibility, strength, and change.

And the rest of the time I am delighting in listening to and learning from other presenters.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
SS:
I think we will all come away with an enhanced sense of community, a renewed vision for helping make this a better world, inspiration from many great people, and quite specific possibilities as to where we can put our time and energy for fostering peace.

Sharon Salzberg
is Co-Founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has been a student of meditation since 1971, guiding meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. Sharon's latest book is the New York Times Best Seller,
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program, published by Workman Publishing.

* * *
Robert Thurman


What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
RT:
Humanity needs to develop greater understanding of the power of nonviolence in achieving peace, to diminish the destructive consequence of all forms of violence. To achieve that in the outer world, the inner reactivity of the unreflective unmindful life-habit needs to be studied, individual by individual, in a gradual process of self-education. "World peace through inner peace!" is one of the Dalai Lama's favorite slogans, and he means that each of us needs to cultivate our inner peace. We can do that by living with greater ethical sensitivity about how our acts, words, and thoughts affect others, by developing more freedom through self-awareness about our reactive habit patterns, and by understanding things from multiple perspectives, not getting locked rigidly into our own point of view. Once we find that inner peace, any small bit of it, baby step by baby step, we feel much better, even joyful and energized. Then whatever activist work we do to achieve outer peace in any situation comes from an effective place and does not create more turbulence and counter-reactions.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
RT:
At the conference I will be moderating, making sure that people feel that they are under a gigantic Tibetan peace tent, a relaxing place where all kinds of people doing all kinds of helpful things can meet, reinforce one another, re-kindle the energies of hope and insight, and realize that the "impossible" is actually possible.

As moderator, I want to make sure that presenters focus on presenting their work to His Holiness, re-visiting it themselves in the light of his presence, and feeling his celebration of their sincere motivation, effort, and accomplishment, as well as thinking creatively about how to further their effectiveness. The message is that of His Holiness and the Tibetan people and all those who try to find opportunity in difficulties, never give up, see the other side, keep hope alive, and remain joyfully determined.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
RT:
We want them to realize that their positive efforts are meaningful, their goals highly possible, and no good deed, word, or thought goes unrewarded by goodness and happiness, sooner or later. As Buddha and Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and His Holiness, among many others, tirelessly teach, peace is the path as well as the goal.

Robert A. F. "Tenzin" Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President and co-founder of Tibet House US, the President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, and Editor-in-Chief of the Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences, a long-term translation and publication project of the Tibetan Tengyur canon. A personal friend of the Dalai Lama for over 40 years and the first American to have been ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk, he is now an ordained lay Buddhist.

* * *

Marianne Williamson

What changes do you think humanity needs to make to achieve lasting peace in the world?
MW:
We can't validly say we want such a fundamental change as "world peace", if we're only willing to make superficial changes in order to make it happen. We prepare for war, but then say we want peace; we perpetuate the causes of continued desperation among the least advantaged of the world, but then say we want peace; we continue to put economic prosperity for a few before humanitarian concern for the many, but then say we want peace; we recklessly disregard the most basic imperatives of brotherly love, but then say we want peace.

What exactly will you be doing at the conference? What theme or message are you representing?
MW:
I'm giving a workshop on the relationship between our personal spiritual work and our effectiveness as social activists. Also, I'm appearing on a panel on peace.

What do you hope people come away with from the summit?
MW:
I would like to think that people come away from the summit with much more than just intellective date. I hope they come away inspired, ablaze with purposefulness and ready to do their part to change the world.

Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher. Among her 10 published books, four of them were #1 New York Times Bestsellers. She has been a popular guest on television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Good Morning America and Charlie Rose. Marianne also founded The Department of Peace Campaign, a grass roots campaign supporting legislation to establish a U. S. Department of Peace.

* * * * *
For more information, visit Newarkpeace.org. Tickets are still available for all 3 days of the Newark Peace Education Summit. Visit NJPAC.com or call the box office at 1-888-GO-NJPAC.
 
 
 

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