By Maggie Kane
Adolfo Esquivel did not begin Friday’s public address by introducing himself. Instead he asked the audience to introduce themselves to each other. “How are we going to change the world and build peace if we don’t even know each other?” he asked. Voices rose and words were exchanged.
Esquivel’s address was part of the Great Lakes PeaceJam’s Nobel Laureate Week. The week culminates in a weekend conference for high school and college students said Jen Stroven, Co-Excecutive Director of Seeding Change, which runs the PeaceJam events. While the conference is not open to the general public, Stroven said the organization wants to expand the educational experience for the public.
“We’re really excited to host Adolfo,” said Stroven, “because he’s considered the human rights champion of Latin America.” Esquivel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his human rights work in Latin America. He was imprisoned by the Argentinean government in the late 1970s and released fourteen months later after Amnesty International named him their prisoner of the year.
Esquivel chose not to discuss his personal experiences during his address, but rather to examine current issues in peace leadership. Giving examples like Libya and Iraq, Esquivel questioned the United States’ role in perpetuating world violence. He held up Japan as an example of peace in times of strife, citing the lack of robberies and looting in post-tsunami cities.
The audience was receptive and challenged by Esquivel’s ideas. In a brief question and answer segment after the lecture, two audience members asked him about solutions. “What,” one student asked, “does Esquivel suggest as an alternative to war? What can we do to promote peace on a larger level?” Although Esquivel stressed that he could not fix these problems, he suggested dialogue and boycotting corporations who support wars.