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Martin Luther King III, Dalai Lama, and others share messages of hope and peace

Martin Luther King III

Syracuse University made history when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama visited the SU campus for the Common Ground for Peace and One World Concert series. The 2-day event drew a star-studded lineup of artists, human rights activists, journalists, and scholars—all engaged in discussion, reflection, and musical performances advocating peace.

For SU students, faculty, alumni, and friends, the various panels held during October 8-9, 2012 presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear combined wisdom from one of the world’s most acclaimed spiritual leaders and international peace ambassadors. Two of those distinguished guests came from the Atlanta area: Martin Luther King III, human rights advocate and eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Andrew Young, ordained minister and civil rights activist.

King and His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in a panel called “Raising the Global Consciousness,” exploring the dynamic factors that influence behavior, politics, and philosophy, from the availability and timeliness of information to constantly changing spiritual beliefs. The discussion contemplated what steps must be taken to push society’s global consciousness toward peace and humanity. Watch the webcast.

Moderated by Ann Curry, international correspondent for NBC News, the panel included King, the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate and former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, and Academy Award-winning composer, UN Ambassador, and philanthropist A.R. Rahman.

The panel focused largely on the role of educators and journalists to inform the rest of the world and the influence of technology. King reflected on his father’s optimism, ElBaradei spoke looking past cultural differences, and Ebadi talked about the need to discourage things like video games that promote violence.

“In order to have inner peace, we have to learn it,” Ebadi said.

While the Dalai Lama joked about his own technological limitations, he recognized the benefits of using social media platforms and other new technologies to spread messages of kindness and compassion. “We can use these technologies for positive purpose, for peace,” His Holiness said.

Together, King and Young participated in a second panel called “The Past is Not the Past: The Continuing Quest for Racial Justice and Peace.” The dialogue addressed the interest of peace and justice in the face of persistent racial violence and inequality in the United States from the Civil Rights Era to the present day. Other panelists included Dr. Linda Carty, SU professor of African-American Studies, along with Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson, professors at SU’s College of Law who also serve as directors of the Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI), a program that seeks justice for murders occuring during the Civil Rights era. CCJI held a program for Atlanta alumni in 2010.

King spoke of the justice system in the United States as problematic and said there’s no true peace without justice. “Our criminal system, because of its structure, does not allow true justice to exist for everyone,” he said, noting the disturbing number of minorities in prison.

Young, who confronted segregation with King’s father, agreed. “I never believed justice was possible in my lifetime. I still don’t,” he said “But I believe that, as my daddy used to say, don’t get mad and emotional about it. Get smart.”

A 1979 graduate of his father’s alma mater, Morehouse College, King holds a degree in political science. His constant pursuit of justice through nonviolent means has included addressing the moral and political dilemmas of Haiti, Nigeria, Australia, and Sierra Leone, leading protests against the biased digital divide in the field of technology, and speaking to the United Nations on behalf of individuals living with the challenges of AIDS. 

In 2003, King co-sponsored the 40th anniversary of the historic March on Washington with human rights organizations from across the country. He founded the nonprofit organization Realizing the Dream Inc., which later merged with The King Center, allowing him to share his father’s message with a global audience through international nonviolence education workshops and programs.

Young’s work for civil and human rights has included many years in public office as mayor, congressman, and United Nations ambassador. He has received honorary degrees from more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the United States and the Legion d’Honneur in France, each nation’s greatest civilian honor. He serves on a number of boards, including the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the United Nations Foundation, and the Andrew Young School for Policy Studies at Georgia State University and Morehouse College.