Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TIme to Talk Peace

As we walked into the hotel restaurant before breakfast, plates were clinking and people were chatting. Everyone was dressed for the conference and the students looked so professional! Taylor and I arrived to breakfast a bit late and t our pleasant surprise, the students had already found seats with the students from Quinnipiac! We are so very proud of their confidence and maturity!

Soon after breakfast the moment had finally arrived- it was time to leave for the conference! Of course we left a bit early so we could be sure to be on time. Adorning our official badges around our necks, with tickets in hand, and curiosity in our hearts we marched proudly to the Palace of Culture and Science for the first conference session. When we arrived, we picked up our wireless translation devices. These are used in the sessions for laureates and leaders who speak other languages- they are translated in real time so that everyone can fully participate. Each device has upwards of 7 different language channels! These devices represent the diversity and magnitude of this event.

As we entered the auditorium for the opening ceremonies we were awestruck by the beauty and antiquity of the room. Massive ceilings, golden accents, and intricate Soviet designs grabbed our attention from every direction. The ceremonies began with a warm welcome from the Mayor of Warsaw and were followed by speeches that set the tone for the conference; they geared us up for important conversations on human rights.

There were two morning pannel sessions. The first was entitled Stand in Solidarity for Peace and Security and was given by Nobel Laureates Mikhail Gorbachv, Frederik Willem De Klerk, Shirin Ebadi and Physicians Against Nuclear Weapons advocate, Ira Helfrand. These individuals charged us with "remembering our humanity" when approach social issues and formulating effective solutions to pressing problems. Human and Social Values was the title of the second session. Lech Walesa, Muhammad Yunus, Mairead Maguire, and Peter Tieffenthal left us with the messages of understanding tragedy through a very human lens. This means considering the role of non-violent movements in our modern world and establishing peace from the bottom upwards.

After a short break for lunch we were right back at it! The second half of the day offered us a choice of 2 specific workshop sessions to attend. We spread out to cover all the ground of what the conference had to offer. Some attended a session hosted by Mairead Maguire on Non-Violence. In this session, students were given a very real perspective on Syria as well as a look into some of the non-violent movements that exist amidst the violence. Frankie and Keren spoke with Ms. Maguire after her session and asked profound questions with equally profound responses!

Yahaira attended a session with former South African President F.W. de Klerk surrounding apartheid and the issues that S. Africa is still facing today. The other sessions were about Nuclear Weapons/War. In one session, the international relations/ policy side of the issue was address and in another session, the practical implications of nuclear war were address. Dr. Helfran gave students a detailed depiction of what would happen to our world post-nuclear war on both a small and large scale. Although the session was extremely intense, the students were so engaged and passionate about what they heard that they went up to Dr. Helfran after his session. After Keren told him how much he influenced her, he offered to come visit Hartford High to give a talk to some other students about the same topic!

Needless to say-we were exhausted! Did we go right to bed? No! Instead, we walked 1.5 miles to a castle for a orchestra concert and a fancy feast. We felt like royalty in this renovated castle and of course, the food was splendid.

Taylor and I have been receiving countless comments and compliments about the students. Most people are shocked to find out that they are in high school because they are so "well spoken, mature, and smart." We are just so proud of their hard work. They are representing our school, our city, and our country with excellence and poise.

In the evening, we had a debriefing session where we shared our thoughts on the sessions and debated different topics. The students went to bed feeling recharged and confident for the day ahead!

We've made it!



Lech Walesa

Laureate Pannelists

Mairead Maguire and Mother Agnus

Frankie Connecting with A Marvelous Laureate, Ms. Maguire

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