Like a mother loves a child

We must love our planet and all those who live on it like a mother loves a child was the message from his holiness the Dali Lama at the opening of the 8th Annual Summit of Nobel Laureates. The Dali Lama, who is truly a captivating speaker, gave the opening address for the summit after the former President of the USSR, Gorbachov, and the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni awarded George Clooney and Don Cheadle the 2007 Peace Summit Award.

The two American actors each gave remarkably humble acceptance speeches for two of the most popular men in the city, even the world. Don Cheadle’s speech started with his admission that he almost did not accept the award because he did not think his work measured up to the work of the Laureates giving the award. In fact, had it not been for his sensible wife who pointed out that he could recive the award without making the award about him, Cheadle might not have been there.

Although Clooney did not seem unwilling to accept the award his humbleness came in the form of a call to action. His speech centered around the notion that the freedom of speech does not give one the right to run into a crowded theater and scream fire, unless there is one. His point was that he and everyone in the room had the right and the ability to speak up for those who cannot and that we therefore had an obligation to do so.

Just as the two actors were humbled to receive the award, it was humbling for anyone who considered it important to change the wrongs they see in the world to be in a room with people like the Dali Lama, Gorbachov, Betty Williams, M.C. Maguire and Mohamuod Yunnus, all of who gave similar speeches calling for the world to take action to end poverty, end violence and make our world a better place to live.

A particularly emotional appeal came from M.C. Maguire, noted for her work to end violence in Irleand, who called out to the young people in the room to organize and stand up to the injustices that are all around them. Coming from a women who actually did that, there was not a person in the room who did not get shivers (I know I did).

Later events included two panels with both Gorbachov and Betty Williams. Both sessions included questions for the panel from German college students, in town for the summit. Sadly one youngerster was compelled to point out that neither pannel contained a young person despite the title of the summit “The Next Generation”. Hopefully, the summit’s organizers will reconsider this for next year.

Nonetheless it is a true honor to attend a conference with people who have literally changed the course of history in a city that has so much history. It is hard to pay attention to where I am going when on every corner there is a building or a satute or a fountain that was built before my ancestors spotted plymouth rock. Not to mention the fabulous food and remarkably kind people that can be found in every little Pizzeria, Cafe and Bar (a bar in Italy is more like a coffee shop in the US and serves up a stunning array of baked goods and sandwiches).

Check back tomorrow for more from Rome, or has they say here, Roma. Arrivedela!

Pictures to come when I get back to the US.