WASHINGTON – Peace and war.
Chicago is hosting international gatherings in the span of weeks that are sort of bookends: the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates starts Monday and the NATO summit, where the ongoing Afghanistan War is a major concern, runs May 20-21 at McCormick Place.
Most of the local attention has been on the much larger NATO summit – and not what the prime ministers and presidents will be discussing, but on the fortress-like security arrangements being rolled out in Chicago for the diplomats, the peaceful protesters, the rioters if they come and, god forbid, terrorists.
The NATO gathering is bringing some 50 world leaders to Chicago, plus their defense and foreign ministers, top military officers, advisers and ambassadors and about 2,000 journalists from around the globe.
The Nobel Peace Laureates Summit is much smaller but needs to get some attention for what seems to be an obvious reason: The more peaceful resolution to international conflicts, the less need for actions from NATO or any other military force.
While Mayor Rahm Emanuel landed the NATO Summit for Chicago – leveraging his former role as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff – the planning for the three-day Nobel event started under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
While the near convergence of the summits is a coincidence – Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (named after her father) and a Nobel Summit co-chair – discussed them in an interview with Phil Ponce on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.”
“The timing is actually very, very good, because the idea of the [Nobel] summit is that we all do want a more just and peaceful world,” she said.
On Monday, for three days, an assortment of Nobel Peace Prize winners – including former President Jimmy Carter and former heads of state Lech Walesa (Poland), Mikhail Gorbachev (Russia) and Frederik Willem de Klerk (South Africa) – will be in Chicago for the summit with the theme, “Speak Up, Speak Out for Freedom and Rights.”
There also will be a variety of organizations such as the RFK Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace sending representatives to Chicago to observe the panel discussions at the University of Illinois at Chicago and related events.
On Monday morning, 18 Chicago public high schools will get visits from Nobel laureates and representatives of international organizations whose leaders have won the peace prize, such as Amnesty International, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
Gorbachev, the 1990 winner, is speaking at Von Steuben High School, 5039 N. Kimball.
At Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard, the event with Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 winner from Bangladesh, is being Web-hosted by the State Department with students from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Peru.
The State Department also arranged for 16 high school students and four teachers from Bangaldesh, Burma, Liberia and Yemen to come to Chicago for the summit.
Carter is keynoting the Monday lunch while former President Bill Clinton is the headliner at the Field Museum opening dinner.
Of course, the point is not lost that the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace prize, Obama, is not at the peace summit in his own city, but will be back to host NATO.
But Obama has an important speech on Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he will be introduced by Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and author who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Obama will speak about genocide prevention and the U.S. efforts to make sure mass atrocities never happen again.