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International Day of Peace
UN Trip Summary
"International Day of Peace"
Sept. 21, 2012
Ashley Thoet & Ellie McGuire
On September 21, 2012, twelve Lehigh University students had the amazing opportunity to visit the United Nations
Headquarters for the International Day of Peace Conference, Student Observance. The Inaugural Day of Peace was
in September 1982, and has for the last thirty years been celebrated with festivals, concerts, moments of silence
and conferences worldwide. This year’s Student Observance at the United Nations focused on the topic,
“Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future” and featured renowned ecologist Dr. Jane Goodall, author and
humanitarian Elie Wiesel, actors Michael Douglas and Forest Whitaker, as well as Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
All of the speakers provided insight into their work as well as the importance of actively working towards
the goal of world peace--whether that be through reducing hunger and disease or disarmament--no matter how
old you are.
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the importance of youth by saying that half the world is
under twenty-five years of age, and one out of every five people is between the ages of fourteen
and twenty-five. He encouraged students to “make noise for peace, justice, and a better world” as well
as to become “global citizens” by thinking and acting on behalf of the world, not only as a nation.
All of the speakers on the panel reiterated this idea by focusing their speeches on the agency of
youth and the younger generation’s role in creating a more sustainable future. Whitaker referenced
the students in the room as a “borderless generation” who have the power to “transform the present
to a future of peace” while Douglas commented that “the economy doesn’t look good, so if you’re not
going to make a lot of money, maybe you can make a better world.” These sentiments were echoed by
students through videoconference by the UN Peacekeeping Missions in Liberia and in the world’s
newest nation, South Sudan; who gave presentations on the issues in their own respective countries.
All twelve of the Lehigh students in attendance were able to experience first-hand what a unique
opportunity it is to have a partnership with the United Nations, and how it opens doors to experiences
like the Day of Peace conference. It is rare to be able to hear first-hand such accomplished and amazing
individuals speak and appeal to younger generations in a single place and time, but it is even more
incredible to have the opportunity to sit amongst a group of peers who all want to work towards the
shared mission of making our future more sustainable. The 2012 International Day of Peace Student
Observance is certainly a memory the Lehigh students will have forever.