February 5, 2001
Big names highlight
By Michael Terrazas email@example.com
President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and renowned Harvard naturalist E.O. Wilson headlined the Universitys long-awaited Reconciliation Sympo-sium, Jan. 2527, which by all accounts was a resounding success.
Crowd turnout was impressive for the keynote addresses. Carter spoke
Jan. 25 to a capacity gathering in Glenn Auditorium, and people stood
in the aisles for Wilsons Jan. 27 address in WHSCAB Auditorium,
which was also near capacity for Lewis speech the day before.
One aspect of reconciliationthe growing disparity between the worlds
richest and poorest populationswas a recurring theme throughout
the weekend. Carter touched on it first, saying that
The Carter Center has programs in 65 nations, 35 in Africa, which
is where the poorest countries are concentated, he continued. Although
Ive bragged on American universities, in those countries we rarely
see any evidence of their involvement. We havent shared our treasure.
Even though he rarely glanced down at his notes, Carter said hed
worked on his keynote address as much as any speech hed delivered
since his presidency. He took his glasses on and off and spoke about growing
up poor in south Georgia and playing with neighbors, black children, who
were just as poor as him.
It didnt bother me, I hate to admit, that their parents couldnt
vote, couldnt sit on a jury, he said. We were neither
separate nor equal. Now, under the law, we are equal but weve become
In his Friday morning address, Lewis called reconciliation an ancient
cry for peace and understanding and said it is an integral component
in building what he called the beloved community.
The need for reconciliation goes beyond civil rights, said
Lewis, who later signed copies of his autobiography, Walking With the
Wind, in WHSCAB Plaza. Native Americans were forced from their
land; Japanese-Americans were interred during World War II.
I see an America much different from the America of my youth,
he said. A new America for a new century. Today, in 2001, I believe
means and ends are inseparable. If our aim is peace, our tactics cannot
Following his participation in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s,
in which he was beaten and jailed many times, Lewis said he had an
executive session with himself in which he made the personal decision
not to hate his oppressersever. I see those who defended segregation
as victims of tradition, history and custom, he said. Hate
is too heavy a burden to bear. Hate and revenge will destroy both you
Finally, the other bookend to the symposium along with Carter,
Harvards Wilson spoke Saturday morning about reconciliation not
between groups of people, but between humanity and the place it calls
home. He asked rhetorically how history might look back on the late 20th
and early 21st century, with all its amazing advances in science, technology
and human health.
In this buoyant view, what might we have overlooked? he said,
then answered: Much of the rest of life, of creation.
I predict the 21st century will be the century of the environment,
Wilson said. [It will be] a time to settle down and put our house
in orderbefore we wreck the planet.
Wilson then chronicled part of that destruction so far, focusing on the
threats to biodiversity and the rapidly accelerating rate of species extinction
since the dawn of humankind. By three separate measures, he said, species
extinction is proceeding at a rate 100 to 10,000 times faster than before
humans became the dominant species.
With most of the earths biodiversity located in its tropical rainforests,
Wilson described the rate at which people are destroying those environments.
Roughly one-half of the total area of rainforest remains from before humanity
started cutting it in the 19th century, he said.
But Wilson said he remained optimistic that humans will arrest their
own destructive development before it is too late. He described efforts
by international conservation organizations to beat environmentally destructive
operations at their own game by outbidding them for logging concessions
to pristine lands. Wilson said roughly $6 billion is spent per year worldwide
on conservation, then added about $26 billion per year is needed to save
the most endangered areas.
Thats junk change, he said. The central problem of the new century is how to raise the standard of living for the worlds poor while preserving biodiversity. The resources to accomplish it exist. At the end of the day, its an ethical decision.