In 1982, September 21 was named by the United Nations General Assembly to be the International Day of Peace.
A beautiful, haunting, and truly unfathomable concept.
What would it mean if all humanity acted in a peaceful way, for one 24 hour period?
This weekend, I had the incredible experience of catching a glimpse into a microcosm of this concept: what this world might look like if peace was practiced for all and by all. I was selected as a Fellow to attend the Social Good Summit 2013, a 3 day conference held during UN week where hundreds of activists, innovators, and inspirations come together to collaborate on the advancement of the world: the preservation of the environment, the elimination of poverty, the implementation of equality among sex and race, the fight against disease, the access to education, the end of war.
The most interesting part about this Summit was its focus on the year 2030 as its central theme. There was something concrete to work towards, importantly placing the emphasis outside of the here and now, recognizing that this inability to look towards the future may be the root of much inactivity and apathy revolving around the world’s most pressing and time sensitive issues, climate change being an obvious example.
It also allows us to think of the 5 year olds, as Will.i.am encouraged us to do as he spoke onstage Saturday. In the year 2030, today’s 5 year olds will be 22 years of age, and recent college graduates. What will they be able to set their mind to do, but more importantly, what will they be up against?
Throughout the duration of the Summit, I absorbed the words of high-ranking officials, was in awe of personal inspirational figures, and connected with different leaders and fellow students who shared common interests and goals.
Highlights included Al Gore, who spoke about the necessity of placing a price on carbon, considering the high costs we are already paying for it. Gore also interviewed Parker Liautaud, 19 year old, who has already made the expedition to the North Pole, has researched for several universities on his findings, and who is now setting up to voyage 400 miles down the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, which would make him the youngest person to do so. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, came onstage with a glass of water, speaking to its importance, stating “Water is development, water is a human right, water is peace”. Malala Yousafzai, a personal hero of mine, spoke 10 months after she was brutally shot by the Taliban who were threatened by her pursuit of an education. She brought tears to my eyes when she likened her dream for the education of girls worldwide to Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality. His dream was eventually realized, she commented, but what he advocated for seemed so basic that the harsh realities without these rights appear as though they could only exist in a dream state, or rather, a nightmare.
My favorite speaker was someone I had never heard of before, but whose honest, outspoken, and passionate nature captivated me: Magatte Wade. Magatte was born in Senegal, moved to France around the age of eight, and ultimately found herself working in Silicon Valley. Magatte wanted to revive the traditions of her home country, Senegal, while providing livelihood to its peoples, maintaining the highest degrees of ethical and environmental standards, and creating “a positive advancement of business, gender roles, and Africa”. She began a company that revived the traditional Senegalese Hibiscus drink, but when it began to lose sight of her mission she broke away and started another company. This is a line of body care products based on Senegalese recipes and donating 10% of profits to the creation of schools in Senegal, but also combining the fragrances and sophistication of France with the environmentally savvy and protective nature of California, to create a wonderful message and sense of empowerment for all involved.
The most important takeaway from the entire summit was our reliance on social media to connect and collaborate with the entire globe, as was demonstrated by the live stream, meet ups, and twitter conversations that spanned continents during this inciting event. We have a duty, and we now have the facility (that we never had before) to implement the change we are seeking.
To a sustainable and just future!