Queen Rania shares personal stories to highlight common humanity

October 24, 2007

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department – Long Beach, CA)  Recalling childhood anecdotes and some of the defining moments of her life, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah addressed an audience of 14,000 women in Long Beach, CA. The Queen's speech carried a message of cross cultural understanding and emphasized that "we are all much more alike than we are different; the experiences that shape us, no matter where we grow up bring out the same very human responses – of tears and laughter, fear and courage, uncertainty and enlightenment".

Speaking at the California Governor and First Lady's Conference on Women, Her Majesty shared several personal experiences ranging from a moment of clarity in nursery school to dining with her late father-in-law His Majesty King Hussein, for the first time.

Approaching the first meal with her then father-in-law-to-be with some trepidation, Queen Rania, at 22 years of age, was pleasantly surprised and immediately at ease, she recalls. “It was quite an experience to be meeting the King over a casual meal of falafel, just like any other Jordanian family might serve, with no protocol or pretense,” she said, “and when I think back on that moment now, it underscores for me the importance of the first pledge we have taken today – of showing up in our lives as ourselves because whatever title or office we may be privileged to hold, it is what we do that defines who we are. It is how we treat others. What values we embrace. What example we set for our children.” “It is not the rank or the role that matters. And it is not what we have. It is what we give,” she reminded the crowd of high profile women from the entertainment, business, and media industries as well as political spouses and Nobel laureates who have all gathered at the annual event to outline their roles as architects of change.


Drawing on other lessons she had learned from the late King, Queen Rania reminded the crowd of King Hussein's historical role in the peace talks at Wye River nine years ago. "His Majesty was dying. Yet he was unyielding in his total commitment to peace – his determination to build a better tomorrow for all the children of Abraham. He breathed life into a quest for peace that many had thought was doomed. He ennobled those around him by the force of his great spirit. And that is what made him a king," she said, "I am so proud that my husband, King Abdullah, is carrying on that legacy – relentlessly pushing for an end to the conflicts that have torn apart our region for too long."

The lesson learnt from His Majesty's selfless and admirable gesture, "Each of us, in our own small realm, can be the ones who greet the world with open arms. We can be the ones who demonstrate, in the words of King Hussein, 'that peace resides ultimately not in the hands of governments but in the hands of the people.' And we can teach our children that in our interdependent world, we have to be able to depend on one another."

Her Majesty, who has been speaking internationally about the common values of humanity, also shared the tragic story of the aftermath of the Amman bombings, where she visited survivors and victims' families.

Many of Queen Rania's programs have focused on recognizing the common values of humanity, appreciating the various perspectives in the world, and bridging the cultural divide between East and West because, as she believes, "more than ever our fates are intertwined – and our friendship must know no boundaries".

On a lighter note, the Queen revisited much earlier memories, too, and spoke of an interesting lesson learnt in nursery school when she was first exposed to new types of food. Queen Rania cited her initial reaction to peanut butter – a snack that at first glance she found strange and unappealing, only to discover how delightful the taste was to her palette.

Her Majesty warned of the dangerous consequences of exclusion, saying, “When we do that, we diminish ourselves. We deprive ourselves of life’s richness. And at worst, we perpetuate ignorance that breeds prejudice and fear. I am afraid we are seeing that trend today in the tensions between East and West, with each side encumbered by stereotypes of what the other must be like."

Touching upon different perspectives from both sides on issues such as Islam and women, the Queen called for a better understanding of the other side. "The more we try to stand in one another's shoes and appreciate one another's perspective, the more dimension, depth and texture we'll ultimately add to our own", she said. The daylong conference featured a number of known speakers and entertainers, journalists and politicians - including an on-stage discussion with spouses of the current 2008 US presidential candidates and a session between California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who signed a landmark pact on global warming issues last year. Event host Maria Shriver recognized five California women for their outstanding humanitarian work. Among them, Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was honored with a lifetime achievement award for decades of work in a host of educational, medical and health care areas. Mrs. Shriver is the founder and honorary chairperson of the Special Olympics, the international organization that demonstrates the achievements through sports of people with intellectual disabilities and now involves 2.5 million athletes in 165 countries. While at the convention center, Her Majesty also toured the exhibition hall to see the Jordanian handicraft work at the booth of the Jordan River Foundation (JRF). As chairperson of JRF, Queen Rania ensured that the foundation had a booth to display some the fine handicrafts of JRF's beneficiaries, in local communities around Jordan, to an international audience.