Queen Noor of Jordan

Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Ceremony - Oct. 13, 1996

Queen Noor of Jordan
October 13, 1996— Hyde Park, New York
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Mrs. Rabin,
Dr. Vanderheyden,
Ms. Lichtenberg,
Members Of The Roosevelt Family,
Dr. Murray And Mrs. Reese,
Honored Guests,

It is a privilege to be here today at the prestigious and dynamic Val-Kill Center in the company of such distinguished honorees, gathered to receive tribute not so much as individuals as on behalf of the cause that we all so fervently support.

Mrs. Rabin and I first met in July 1994 at the White House in a celebration of peace, for the signing of the Washington Declaration by our husbands. We met again later, the following October, when Jordan and Israel signed the historic treaty of peace that put an end to four decades of conflict between our countries.

Peace is not something that can be achieved simply by the stroke of a pen. It is more like a newborn child, whose birth is celebrated, but who must then be carefully nurtured to grow and develop. That careful nurturing can be the hardest work of all.

Peace is work.

Eleanor Roosevelt knew this. In her efforts as a delegate to the U.N., where she helped draft the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and later as a goodwill ambassador all over the world, she worked tirelessly to nurture peace in its most human forms.

As a woman who was invaluable both to her husband's administration during World War II and to his successor in the time of peace that followed, Mrs. Roosevelt knew that peace can be harder work than war.

War, once people are caught in its grip, can perpetuate itself. To pursue peace in the face of enmity and hatred is the work of building, rather than tearing down -- of building trust, bridges between cultures, and a shared commitment to a common future.

As Mrs. Roosevelt said: "it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it."

Such work requires determination, sacrifice, and sheer effort.

No one knows more about the commitment peace requires than last year's Val-Kill medal recipient, Hillary Rodham Clinton. While the president has worked hard to broker agreements that end wars, she has worked hard on projects that, in Mrs. Roosevelt's words, create the "kind of world in which peace can endure." In her efforts on behalf of the world's children especially, Mrs. Clinton reminds us why we must never turn our backs on peace.

No one knows more about the sacrifices peace demands than Lea Rabin. In her work supporting culture, health care, and the welfare of autistic children, she, like Mrs. Clinton, has emphasized the humanitarian priorities that should govern a peaceful world.

But she has also endured the ultimate loss, seeing her husband martyred in the cause of peace. The role of peace-maker is a dangerous one. All of us who love those who have dedicated themselves to peace felt her tragedy deeply.

I know that she and I share a sense of the opportunities and challenges of our public lives and, perhaps, influenced by life with our soldier/peace-maker husbands, a common philosophy 'to soldier on.' We must all be a new kind of soldier -- committed fighters in the battle against war; warriors for peace.

Throughout her ordeal, Lea Rabin has embodied the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "life was meant to be lived -- one must never for whatever reason, turn his back on life." She would be the last person who would want that tragedy to overshadow - or worse, to endanger - all the work her husband, and she herself, have dedicated to the cause of peace.

The other honorees here today know much about the work of peace at the place where it must start: at the grassroots level. A world in which peace is valued cannot be imposed from above. It must be built from the ground up, brick by brick, or even blade of grass by blade of grass. Dr. Murry and Mrs. Reese, in their laudable work in education and environmental and scenic preservation, have made great strides in creating the kind of peace-fostering world Mrs. Roosevelt envisioned.

For us in Jordan, peace has been an elusive but precious goal for over half a century. King Hussein's dreams of peace have been a driving force for him and those around him, since he assumed the throne as a young man still in his late teens. I shared his dreams and, since my marriage, I have worked to complement his efforts to foster the kind of environment that will nurture peace. I have worked where I believe work should start, at the grassroots, abroad and at home.

Some of those efforts have been international and multi-cultural in focus, to defeat persistent stereotypes and misconceptions about Arab and Islamic society and culture, to provide opportunities for people to learn about each other -- to open their minds, and to promote the mutual tolerance and understanding that makes peace possible.

I am particularly committed to programs that use education as a tool of peace.

As president of the United World Colleges, I am privileged to work with a network of secondary schools in ten countries, dedicated to the education of talented scholarship students in cross-cultural and multi-national settings, designed to promote respect for pluralism, international understanding and solidarity among young people throughout the world.

These values are increasingly relevant to the promotion of peace in a world still ravaged by war and plagued by narrow nationalism.

I am also privileged to chair an international council for the establishment of the United Nations University International Leadership Academy, in our capital, Amman. Launched by the United Nations during its 50th anniversary celebrations, the academy will be the first global leadership training facility. It will encourage prominent political, economic and cultural figures from different countries to enhance their leadership and conflict resolution skills and to heighten their appreciation of the trans-national and global nature of the challenges that define their lives.

Our other efforts are more local -- through economic, educational and social projects in Jordan designed to give people an investment in peace. Although people at war often claim they are fighting to preserve something, the most pernicious wars persist where people have nothing left to lose. To build peace, people must have not something worth fighting for, but something to make it worth ending the fighting.

In the integrated development projects we have initiated under the umbrella of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation, we have tried to provide our people not with traditional centralized welfare programs, but with the tools and skills they need to help themselves and become self-reliant. For this is the kind of sustainable development that promotes the ownership of peace. Our programs focus especially on women, because the empowerment of women is the fastest and most effective route to development. Women are the members of our society most naturally committed to the pursuit of peace and reconciliation, in the hope of providing their children with a secure future.

We believe that the social and economic empowerment our projects achieve contributes to national cohesion and stability, and to international competitiveness, not in terms of conflict, but of mutually beneficial progress.

As my husband said in his address to the joint session of the United States Congress in July 1994, "it should never be forgotten that peace resides ultimately not in the hands of governments, but in the hands of the people. For unless peace can be made real to the men, women, and children of the Middle East, the best efforts of negotiators will come to naught."

This is the message we want to send to those in our region, particularly in Israel, who yearn for peace. We must hold fast to hope, and continue our quest in spite of discouraging setbacks. We must mobilize the forces for peace in Israel, in the Arab world, in the United States and throughout the world to influence decision-makers to choose genuine security over territorial ambition, humanity over inhumanity, hope over despair, development over stagnation, and peaceful reconciliation over wasteful confrontation.

Peace is hard work. But in spite of that hard work, or perhaps more because of it, nothing is more valuable. Just as in raising that newborn child, in spite of the worries and the frustrations and the sacrifices, we will find that the joys and rewards are immeasurable. All our work may not yet have produced many concrete rewards, but when I think of the people who stand to benefit most from peace -- the women and children, the refugees, the people at the grassroots -- Eleanor Roosevelt's words again come to mind: "perhaps in his wisdom, the almighty is trying to show us that a leader may chart the way, may point out the road to lasting peace, but that many leaders and many people must do the building."

Peace is work. But there is no work more worthwhile, for it makes everything else possible. Eleanor Roosevelt knew that. It is in her honor, and in the honor of that precious work which we celebrate today, that I am privileged to receive this award.

Thank you very much.

Copyright 1996 by Queen Noor. All rights reserved.