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Great Names: Peace Prize-winning panel

By Rachel Lieb '13

March 7, 2013

The Sacerdote Great Names series is about to get supersized. On Wednesday, April 24, Nobel Peace Prize winners Shirin Ebadi, Bernard Kouchner and a third laureate, to be announced at a later date, will form a panel to discuss their work in the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House at 7:30 p.m.

The panel helps to celebrate the 100th anniversary of 1864 Hamilton graduate Elihu Root’s Nobel Peace Prize. This year’s panelists are not the first Nobel laureates to grace the stage during the Sacerdote series. Elie Wiesel, F.W. de Klerk, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore have all won Nobel prizes and have spoken to Hamilton community members since the Great

Names series began in 1996.

The selection process for a Sacerdote Great Names speaker is a lengthy and difficult one.

“There is a selection committee that includes the President, Dean of Faculty, Dean of Students, the VP for Communications and Development and a number of other stakeholders,” explained Associate Dean of Students for Student Engagement and Leadership, Lisa Magnarelli ’96. “We review suggestions from the community, survey results (on years when a survey has been conducted) and other names or ideas the committee brings to the table. Once we develop a short list of names (the people we’d like to focus on), I start pulling together pricing and availability.”

“It’s often a complex puzzle,” Magnarelli continued. “Is the speaker you want available on the date your venue is free and does their honorarium fit within the budget? These are all factors that have to be considered when we’re selecting a program.”

Though the Sacerdote Great Names series has featured two speakers before (political strategists James Carville and Mary Matalin appeared together in 1996), the talk has never before been held in a panel format.

“The panel will make for a really interesting program, while simultaneously celebrating the 100th anniversary of our graduate (Elihu Root) being named the recipient of the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize,” Magnarelli said. “Having three speakers also broadens the scope of the program and allows our community to hear from individuals who have helped shape world events.”

The decision to celebrate Root’s peace prize by bringing a panel of laureates to campus will help to illustrate the steps taken towards achieving world peace since Root accepted his prize. Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, won her prize in 2003 for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially the rights of women and children. She is the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to receive the prize.

After earning a law degree from the University of Tehran in 1969, Ebadi became one of Iran’s first female judges. She was forced to resign the post after the 1979 revolution. Ebadi is known in Iran for her defense of freedom of speech and political freedom. In her numerous publications, Ebadi argues for a new interpretation for shar’ia, or Islamic law that incorporates vital human rights, like democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Bernard Kouchner earned his prize in 1999 for co-founding and serving as the president of Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders. A medical doctor by training, Kouchner was the first person to challenge the Red Cross’ stance of neutrality and silence in wars and massacres. He co-founded Doctors Without Borders in 1971 to bring quality medical care to people in need around the world. Today, Doctors Without Borders relies on voluntary medical personnel who contribute their time and expertise to assist in situations of emergency or inadequate medical care in over 60 countries.

Kouchner became France’s minister of health and humanitarian affairs in 1992 under President Mitterrand, during which time he convinced the U.N. to accept “the right to interfere” resolution after devastating civil wars in the Balkans. He also served as special representative to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Kosovo. Due to his comprehensive experience in both French and international posts, Kouchner has spent the last four years as France’s Foreign Minister.

Ebadi, Kouchner and the laureate who has yet to be announced will share the stage for the Great Names program, each speaking for 10-15 minutes before allowing the audience to ask each panelist questions. Hamilton community members will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance.

Magnarelli was excited about the event. “I think it’s going to be incredibly interesting,” she said, "From a logistics standpoint it’s been very challenging to organize, but I think it will pay off.”

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