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Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Gather in Chicago for Summit

The Midwest city of Chicago is hosting the 12th annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the first time the event is taking place in North America. More than a dozen prominent laureates are promoting the Summit’s theme to “Speak Up, Speak Out for Freedom and Rights” through a series of discussions during the three-day event. Organizers hope that theme resonates with youth.

High school student speaks at summit

Before she spoke at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the people standing behind Chicago high school student Manal Saleh only existed in her textbooks. “…and you hear about them and you see documentaries, but to have them in front of us in the flesh makes it more real,” she said.

Saleh had the honor of introducing former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, who received the Nobel Peace Prize before she was born. “I had President Gorbachev who came from nothing and changed the world, and he’s standing in front of me in the flesh, and it makes me appreciate the value of that all the more,” she added.

Conference purpose, message

“This is a conference of world leaders, but it’s really - they have one message, which is one person can make a difference,” said Kerry Kennedy. Kennedy, the daughter of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy and one of the Summit organizers, says the discussions among the laureates are geared towards students like Saleh.

“Their message is, ‘I’m no different than you.' All of us can make a difference and that’s an incredibly empowering message for the students, but it’s also a source of tremendous hope for the laureates, who are older and looking to the next generation to take up that torch for a better world,” said Kennedy.

Former Soviet leader Gorbachev hopes more youth involvement will help solve global problems such as poverty and unemployment.

“Of course there are things that are happening among the youth that concern us, but young people have to be given a chance to take a stand, to take a position in this world," he noted. "In the context of those problems, the real problems the world is facing.”

Former U.S. President and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jimmy Carter says he and his fellow laureates realize the answer for peace in the future is encouraging more negotiation in the present. “Humankind has got to say 'War comes last, peace comes first,'” he stated.

Former South African President F. W. De Klerk agrees, quoting former U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Theodore Roosevelt.

“President Roosevelt said there’s a time for the big stick and a time for speaking soft," he quoted. "Haven’t we had too much big stick? And isn’t it time for speaking softly?”

The summit comes just weeks before President Barack Obama, the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, meets with world leaders in his hometown of Chicago to discuss the future military role of NATO in Afghanistan.

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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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