Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wisdom of the Ages

In July of this year, an elite group of former statesmen and world leaders came together in Johannesburg, South Africa. The alliance, called The Elders, was formed at the initiative of British singer Peter Gabriel and entrepreneur Richard Branson, to tackle the world's most pressing issues: climate change, pandemics like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and violence of all forms. Nelson Mandela, in his sort of inaugural address, says of the alliance: "This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken. Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair." A veritable who's who in global personalities, three of my personal heroes are members of the alliance: Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Kofi Annan.

I wasn't aware of the group until I saw a CNN Special tonight entitled "Wisdom of the Ages." A group of delegates to a UNICEF special conference on children met with three of the Elders (Tutu, Mary Robinson, and Graca Machel) via video conferencing. It was quite remarkable for me because the children who were in the panel in New York (the Elders were in South Africa) had already achieved much, considering their age. Take for instance Millicent Orondo. She is 15 years old and lives in Kenya. She helped establish a toll-free helpline for children in her community and goes around teaching other kids that sexual abuse and rape are crimes and should be reported (thus the helpline). She also addressed the UN General Assembly at the conclusion of the UNICEF conference. Imagine that. The other kids' bios (I can't find a webpage on it, for some reason) are equally impressive and the Elders who spoke with them expressed admiration for these kids' work.

I'll keep an eye out for a cnn.com page on this special (there's none as of this writing). Meanwhile, the Elders are seeking to have a billion signatures on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It's the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration next year and the global village has fallen short on its commitment to fulfill the tenets of this landmark document. Whether you read it in plain English or in its entire formal wording, I urge you to electronically sign it.

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