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Peace and Disarmament

Back to listJan 24, 2008

The End of Poverty Author Professor Jeffrey Sachs Speaks at Culture of Peace Lecture Series in New York City

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Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs

On January 24, 2008, some 700 people attended SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series with Columbia University Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs at the SGI-USA New York Culture Center. Dr. Sachs is widely known for his bestselling book, The End of Poverty. SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Resource Centers in New York and Los Angeles regularly host the Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series with lecturers speaking on one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 UN Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace.

Dr. Sachs shared that he had recently given his first lecture to a global class being taught by professors from 16 universities around the world who meet real-time via the Internet. He voiced his enthusiasm for collaborative projects that are bringing together students from diverse backgrounds and continents.

Dr. Sachs then drew from history a compelling example to juxtapose with our current age, which he sees marked by pessimism and a "remarkable can't do spirit." He shared extensive excerpts from what he considers to be one of the greatest speeches in modern history given by John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963, amid extreme Cold War tensions. When he heard the speech, Nikita Khrushchev, then leader of the Soviet Union, reached out to President Kennedy and their two governments were able to sign a landmark Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Dr. Sachs addressing a New York audience at a Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series (Jan. 24, 2008)

Referencing today's world, Dr. Sachs observed, "Today, people believe that solutions to other problems are also impossible. That poverty can't be solved, that climate change can't be addressed, that the environment can't be addressed...but as John Kennedy said, that is a dangerous, defeatist belief, it leads to the conclusion that we are doomed. ...If we overcome the fear, which is the greatest obstacle of all and understand the nature of the challenges and understand the power of the technologies that we have...it's inevitable in fact that we'll solve these problems."

Dr. Sachs outlined the extreme poverty of the 21st century in which children especially suffer, explaining that it is impossible for people to "climb out" of this poverty because they have absolutely nothing. But he said it doesn't take much in terms of monetary aid to move people out from under this poverty. He cited several technologies and organizations that are already having tremendous impact.

Dr. Sachs closed his lecture stating confidently that if enough people take the right action, there can be an end to poverty and "we can make the most important connection of all, across every racial divide, religious divide, linguistic divide or any other divide you think of...because the human-to-human contact is so powerful. It's so immediate, it is so persuasive. It is the essence, the path to peace on the planet."

[Adapted from an article in the March 7, 2008 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Danny Sze]