Iran’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, spoke to a full house in the Bernhard Center’s East Ballroom Friday.
The event was the culmination of months of work by Great Lakes Peace Jam, a program administered by the nonprofit Seeding Change. Through the program youth from the Great Lakes region learn about the life and vision of the visiting laureate.
This year’s laureate spoke on issues of women’s rights and expressed her hope that the people of Iran and the United States could peacefully reconcile their differences despite growing tensions between the two states.
“I think it’s a great chance to engage in international and intercultural dialogue,” said Kevin Dodd, the Great Lakes Peace Jam Project Coordinator. “The mission of Peace Jam is to inspire young people to realize their potential and to realize the fact that they can do something that the laureates we study and meet are often just people.”
Dodd explained that Ebadi’s experiences with advocating for human rights and persevering in spite of counteraction by the Iranian government could serve as inspiration for youth involved with the Peace Jam program.
“I think that’s a remarkable story for kids to learn especially. We had over 80 kids from Aurora, Illinois who are from the quote unquote wrong side of the tracks in that city. They’re from an area that has a lot of poverty that has a lot of violence. They know what streets they cant walk down and sometimes they have to walk down them to get to school,” said Dodd. “If one kid comes away with more self esteem, more sense of agency and power then job here is done. There is so much potential for inspiration and for real change.”
Sue-Z Bruno, a fourth grade teacher from Aurora, said that 66 children were in attendance from out of state. These youth learned about Ebadi’s life and mission through Peace Jam after school clubs, which were led by teachers at least once a month.
“This is our first year our school district brought it in [Peace Jam] through second grade through high school, and tomorrow our junior high and high schoolers will be here for the rest of the event. But we organize a special event just for the leaders this weekend,” said Bruno.