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UIC welcomes Nobel laureates

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Dignitaries from all over the world, from the Dalai Lama to Lech Walesa, attended the Nobel peace summit at the UIC Forum.

Photos: Josh Clark, Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

More on the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates:

You have power, peace laureates tell youth
A fighter for human rights
Peace comes first, world leaders say
Climate change, moral compass

Nobel Peace Prize winners from all over the world came to UIC this week to “Speak Up, Speak Out for Freedom and Rights” at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

The summit, never before held in North America, took place at the UIC Forum Monday and Tuesday before moving to Chicago Symphony Center today.

Eight individual laureates and representatives of 13 Nobel-winning organizations attended the summit. Former president Bill Clinton gave the keynote speech at a summit dinner Monday at the Field Museum.

Many of those in the audience at the UIC Forum were students from Chicago high schools.

Laureates visited 17 Chicago schools Monday morning before the summit opened. Students at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center in Albany Park, for example, met Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and actor Sean Penn, who receives the Peace Summit Award today for his humanitarian work in Haiti.

Students from UIC College Prep at Monday’s session included John Shilney and Erica Rodriguez, who were impressed by the emphasis on youth.

“It’s a cliché, but young people are the future, the world leaders of tomorrow,” Shilney said.

“Leaders we look up to are passing knowledge on to young people who can make a difference,” Rodriguez said.

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares welcomed laureates to Tuesday’s session with quotes from former laureates Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Elie Wiesel.

“Each one of us must make a commitment to look up from our busy schedules, our cell phones, and the noise of our daily lives, and ask ourselves, ‘How can I serve peace?’” Allen-Meares said.

For the UIC students at the summit, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I think the most powerful message was the theme of participating in your own community,” said Vidya Govind-Thomas, a senior in biological sciences.

Stacey Jaimes, a sophomore in chemistry, especially liked a comment made Tuesday by laureate Jody Williams: “No polite woman can make a change.”

“She has the perfect attitude that inspires and empowers women,” Jaimes said.

Rocio Cadena, a junior in business management, found inspiration for her own life.

“I’ve always been interested in human rights but I never knew where to start,” she said. “This summit provides a platform. How do you go about making a difference? You start with one simple thing and work from there.”

— Rachael LaManna contributed to this article.

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