Queen Noor of Jordan

Remarks at the Pearson College Fundraising Dinner - Oct. 10, 1996

Queen Noor of Jordan
October 10, 1996— Toronto, Canada
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Prime Minister,
Mr. Bhaloo,
Mr. Chairman Jim Coutts,
Friends Of The United World Colleges, old and new,

I have known the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Pearson College, Galen Weston, and his wife Hillary for a number of years, they have been personal friends of ours. We have had many athletics pursuits in common as we have shared some time during our working visits to London and their working visits there, as well over the years.

Several years ago, while visiting us in Jordan, as we spoke of the challenges facing the Middle East and particularly the importance of educating future generations of peace-makers and builders, that I learned of his intense commitment to Pearson College and the UWC movement while sharing with them our dreams for an exciting new educational project which, I discovered, mirrored the ideals and objectives of UWC's movement: equal opportunity in education; community service; environmental awareness; promoting values of tolerance and peace.

Our school, the Jubilee School, is an independent coeducational school for outstanding scholarship students from throughout Jordan with special emphasis on students from underprivileged areas of the country. Our objective is to graduate not only educated young people but potential leaders with a strong sense of responsibility and ability to face challenges in their communities and to contribute to peace building. The school will ultimately receive students from our region and we hope it will play a significant role in peace building as I have said.

My own multi-cultural background and life-journey have strengthened my belief in the importance of international exchange and multi-cultural perspectives in the building of equitable, productive and peaceful relations among individuals and communities.

One of the greatest honors of my life was to be asked to assume the Presidency of the United World Colleges last year, in partnership with the president of our international council, President Nelson Mandela, whom I have long respected and admired, and whose courage, compassion, and dedication have inspired so many around the world.

The extraordinary journey of the UWC movement began in the United Kingdom, with the establishment in 1962 of Atlantic College, through the dedicated efforts and enlightened and far-sighted internationalist vision of its European founders . Mr. Galen just referred to Dr. Kurt Hahn whose experience and spirit played such a valuable part in that. They believed that the education of talented individuals, within a cross-cultural and multi-national context would promote respect for pluralism, an enduring sense of community with colleagues From other countries, and an understanding of the shared destiny of our human family.

As I understand it, it was Prime Minister Lester Pearson who first envisioned a global network of UWCs to extend the spirit and the message of the first college deeper into other cultures and regions of the world. The Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific began that dream reflecting the late Prime Minister's and Canada's commitment to equal opportunity in education and comprehensive social services, and their long-standing tradition of promoting international cooperation and world peace. The college is a fitting tribute to that great Canadian statesman, respected world leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The late Mr. Pearson will always be remembered with affection and admiration in the Middle East and throughout the world, as the ingenious initiator of United Nations peace-keeping forces during the 1956 Suez crisis, when the security council was paralyzed because of the cold war. And the entire UWC family will always remember Lester Pearson with pride and gratitude.

The UWC network, under the inspiring leadership of its first two presidents, the late Lord Mountbatten and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, expanded rapidly to include 9 colleges around the world. We are delighted that a 10th college, the Mahindra UWC of India, will open in 1997, extending the network of colleges into a new important and culturally rich and diverse part of the world.

One of the greatest challenges of our movement is to nurture young leaders in different fields, who are able to recognize and act upon the new opportunities and realities of our fast changing world by building bridges across cultures and within communities. This challenge is clear to us, from our vantage point in the Middle East, as our peoples are struggling to make the historic transition from a state of war to a state of peace and co-operation.

Recently, 3 Jordanian UWC network members and 1 Palestinian UWC graduate living in Amman, paid a visit to Tel-Aviv upon the invitation of the UWC Israeli network. By chance, this visit occurred a few days prior to the controversial excavation of the tunnel in Jerusalem and the subsequent tragic violence in the West Bank. In this context , we see so clearly the value and significance of the UWC movement in nurturing forces for peace and dialogue in our world. For peace cannot be achieved merely by the stroke of a pen on paper; it is rooted in sustained people-to-people contacts, that can generate the kind of understanding and trust which are prerequisites to lasting peace.

I am very grateful that the proceeds of this dinner, organized with the generous support of the Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council of Canada, will help finance a scholarship for a student from the Middle East to attend Pearson College. I would like to acknowledge the important contributions of the Ismaili community to Pearson College, which reflect the strong spirit of volunteerism of your dynamic community, and your commitment to promoting development and international understanding among all peoples, regardless of race and creed.

For obvious reasons, our region could benefit greatly from enhanced participation in the UWC movement. I believe that the young people of our region, because of the traumatic modern history of the Middle East, can contribute a special perspective to our educational movement and its goals to promote tolerance, conflict resolution and peace and they, in turn will contribute meaningfully to the quality of peace we are all striving for.

Since assuming the Presidency, I've had several opportunities to visit UWC family in different parts of the world. Everywhere I've been so moved by the student enthusiasm , motivation, and sense of solidarity and also by the commitment of the staff involved in these exciting institutions.

My first visit was to the Red Cross Nordic UWC in Norway. That I think is a very important institution to mention because of the partnership that it reflects between the UWC and the humanitarian movement of the Red Cross. It's a unique and exemplary model of institutional co-operation. It was also founded through the efforts of previous graduates and so reflects the spirit of sustained pride and commitment to the UWC tradition of international fellowship and involvement on the part of its graduates. In South Africa and Swaziland for the 12th meeting of the UWC international council, I was moved by the immeasurable service provided by the Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa, who provided a valued source of equal opportunity education for more than a generation of South African and Swazi students.

At the Victoria Station in London in November 1995, I saw an example of how imaginative the friends of UWC can be in enlisting support and recognition for our movement. British Rail acknowledged tribute to the role and achievements of Atlantic College by naming a locomotive after that college, perhaps an example that can be followed here. In Jordan in April 1995, the UWC Jordanian committee and graduate network hosted in Petra the combined UWC regional conference and UWC executive board meeting. It was a first opportunity for graduates of our region to meet together in the Middle East to establish and reinforce regional links among themselves. It generated a great deal of excitement. There was a clear resolve on the part of graduates and administration alike to expand the movement in the Middle East. Tonight's event will certainly provide educational opportunities for students from my area, which will be very much appreciated, and, God willing, will also be part of an effort to expand the movement into the Middle East perhaps through the establishment of a facility there in the future.

Two days ago, at Harvard's prestigious Kennedy School of Government, one of the first questions put to me after my lecture on the challenges to the peace process in the Middle East was by an UWC graduate who began by noting that the UWC movement provides a concrete example of the approach that we are all supporting today --- certainly those of us who are promoting peace and resolution of conflict in the middle east-- to break down barriers of ignorance and fear.

The objectives of a UWC education are not only to allow young people to develop their own character and capabilities, but also to provide them with the ability to help resolve issues in their own societies and to be activists for peace and justice.

The fundamental values of a UWC education, which students take with them after they leave college, are increasingly relevant to global stability and peace and I truly believe that the world will be a better place because of the contributions of UWC graduates. We need their help.

Thank you very much for enabling them to help.

Copyright 1994 by Queen Noor. All rights reserved

Speech from http://gos.sbc.edu/n/noor8.html.