By Anna Quinn
DANBURY — In the first event of Western Connecticut State University’s weekend-long Peace Jam conference, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee urged a crowded Ives Concert Hall to speak up against division, evil and violence.
Now, she said, is a critical time for people to combat divisiveness by “using their voices for good.”
“It is time for each of you in this room and beyond to wake up,” Gbowee said. “Diversity is not bad. We must use our voices to let the rest of the world know that it is our diversity that makes the world great.”
Her hourlong speech used personal, often humorous and powerful anecdotes to promote a message of peace during what she calls a “crisis” in the world today.
She first shared the story of her driver during a trip in London, a Turkish man born in the U.K., who said because of terrorist attacks around the world he had lost his identity and become “someone’s stereotype.”
“I left that place and was never the same,” Gbowee said of his story.
His experience, and other moments of stereotyping in her life, she said, made her realize the divide created by these prejudices.
This divide, she said, can be responsible for every-day injustices or larger atrocities like the Rwandan genocide or the Syrian civil-war. Instead, she said, diversity should be celebrated.
The rest of her talk focused on times she was able to use her voice to stop these injustices, like when she spoke with Liberia’s former president during the second civil-war. She described how she decided to abandon the prepared speech and instead speak her mind.
“I don’t have anything but my voice,” she said. “In the face of tyranny, we all have to be bold and use our words.”
The audience in the 750-seat hall gave Gbowee three standing ovations throughout her speech. After a brief question-and-answer session following the talk, the crowd filed out of the auditorium, many of them gathering in the hall to discuss her speech.
“I don’t think there are adjectives that can capture what we just heard,” said Karen Koza, a professor at WSCU.
Source: My San Antonio Express Online