Queen Rania's Acceptance Speech for John Wallach Humanitarian Award 2007 - NY, USA

May 07, 2007

Being introduced as a peacemaker by George Mitchell is like having Katherine Hepburn hand you an Oscar.  Senator Mitchell, you, too, are a star, and a very tough act to follow!

On behalf of my husband His Majesty King Abdullah and myself, I want to thank Seeds of Peace and its supporters for this wonderful honor. 

It is a special privilege to receive an award whose namesake was such a visionary.  John Wallach had big dreams… and a rare ability to get things done.  He was not content just to propose an idea.  He made it a stunning success.  And his legacy lives on in the bright young people he called Seeds – who have come to care for one another as John so deeply cared about them. 

It is also especially meaningful for me, as a citizen of Jordan, to be continuing along the path set by His Majesty the late King Hussein.  Poised at the crossroads of East and West, and in the cradle of humanity’s great religions, Jordanians know that intercultural respect is not an option… it is an obligation.  But even more, for us, it is an opportunity to become our own best selves, by opening our minds and hearts to the rich diversity of humankind.  We are proud of our role in promoting peace – in our region, and beyond.

And in that regard, Seeds of Peace is both inspiring and humbling – for it shows us all the simple power of friendship to change the world.  

By giving young people the chance to get to know one another in person, instead of through the distorting lens of bitter legacies and conflict, Seeds of Peace is creating a new generation of thoughtful leaders who approach the world with open minds and empathetic eyes.

Let me share with you the words of a Jordanian Seed, Leen Al-Alami, who went to camp in 1996, when she was just 13.  Leen says:

“In the few years that followed, I knew I had experienced something different… it was not an everyday occurrence for Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians to sit, eat, play, indeed practically live, with Israelis.  But that is not why Seeds of Peace is so unique a program.  The power of Seeds of Peace is that today, almost 11 years after that first summer I spent in Maine, I continue to draw on my Seeds of Peace experience in my everyday life.  Many of my fellow Seeds, who are now lawyers, diplomats, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, social workers, doctors, educators and mothers or fathers share this sentiment.  What Seeds of Peace taught us is a way of life in which tolerance, acceptance, respect, and compassion are constantly present.  More than anything, I believe that Seeds of Peace is an investment in the future.”

In this season of spring, it is comforting to know there are Seeds taking flight on the wind – carrying the spirit of openness and respect into their studies, work, and personal relationships.  

But all of us have a responsibility to tend and nurture the soil – to ensure that when these seeds touch down, the ground is not barren and cold.

And I believe the terrain at stake is much wider than the Middle East.  For I am concerned about the dark cloud of fear that is separating East from West… and obscuring our ability to work through our problems together. 

I do not want to push this environmental metaphor too far.  But it seems to me we need to roll up our sleeves and start cultivating some trust – and a common commitment to mutual understanding, respect, and intercultural exchange.  It is time to drop the rhetoric of fear, and launch a conversation of the heart – one that builds on common values, as fellow citizens of an ever-shrinking world.

My husband and I are determined to do our part in leading that dialogue.  And Seeds of Peace has proven that such dialogue can work… that honest discussion can lead to compassion… and turn a faceless stranger into a friend.   

So whenever any of us are having doubts… whenever we are weary… let us imagine three children, holding hands, united and strong… with their feet resting on an olive branch… and their eyes raised towards the horizon.  And let us pledge to plant seeds of hope not only for tomorrow, but for today.

Thank you very much.