Nobel speaker a rare treat

Nov 20, 2012

Inspiring is an understatement for the words of wisdom offered by 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who addressed the Lake Junaluska Peace Conference last weekend.

The peace activist became known to the world for her prayer, peaceful organizing efforts uniting Christian and Muslim women to help end civil war in Liberia. Her beliefs and action propelled her to world acclaim, and her speeches, if anything like the ones delivered in Haywood, are powerful beyond words. Gbowee challenged her audience to define their vision and asked them, point-blank, what was holding them back from achieving it.

International laws and protocols to protect women don’t work, Gbowee told the crowd, and there’s much work left to do to level the playing field. That job is one that all can rise to in their own way. She explained that change is possible if you just “keep walking.” Gbowee has for years.

A story she shared showed an inner strength that all can call on when presented with a situation where something just isn’t right.

She recalled a story about 200 fleeing war victims who were huddled together in a building. The government had ordered that no relief agencies feed the crowd, which included children and elderly, and when Gbowee and her group came across this scene, they sat down and cried.

Quickly, though, they got back  into action, deciding to buck the government’s direction and buy food for these hungry people. When the media brought this all to light, Gbowee’s group didn’t even get in trouble, as the government denied everything and claimed it has authorized the meals all along.

“Giving up is not an option in this world,” she told the crowd.

The deep feelings that something is not right with the world are not to be ignored. That feeling is the inspiration. Actions and perseverance are what will make a difference in the end.

The advice is universal in that it can apply to anywhere there is injustice, whether it is in a war-ravaged country, an area where hardships abound or a place those without a voice never rise above victimization.

Those attending the peace conference are blessed to have heard from someone with a story such as Gbowee’s, and the broader community is even more blessed for the attendees who take the words to heart and put them into action.