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Steward of Justice & Peace
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was born in Argentina in 1931. Trained as an architect and sculptor, he left his career in 1974 at the age of 43 to coordinate non-violent organizations and coalitions in Latin America. Esquivel began a campaign to convince the United Nations of the need for a Human Rights Commission. He sent a record of all of the breaches of human rights that his organization, Servicio Paz y Justicia, “Service, Peace and Justice Foundation," could uncover in Latin America.
In 1977, Argentinean authorities jailed Pérez Esquivel without charge, subjected him to torture and held him without trial in Buenos Aires for fourteen months. It was his third arrest in as many years, each in a different country. After his release, his movements were restricted and he was closely monitored by the police. Over time these limits were eased and he was able to visit Europe in 1980.
For his leadership in the advocacy of human rights and democracy for the people of Latin America, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980. As he said in his Nobel acceptance speech, he continues to believe in, and work for, “a change based on justice, built with love and which will bring us the most anxiously desired fruit of peace.”
A Legacy of Leadership in Non-Violent Activism and Community Organizing for Social Change
Non-violence Political Participation Freedom of Expression Equality Justice Change Social Movements Compromise
One of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced, Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he described as “The Beloved Community” in America.
The “conscience of the U.S. Congress” grew up as the son of sharecroppers, where he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest campaign against racial segregation on public transit that started in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and by the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement; a mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the U.S. that peaked between 1955 and 1965.
As a student at American Baptist College, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations, was one of the Freedom Riders, who were civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States, and was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form.
By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of twenty-three, he was an architect of, and a keynote speaker at, the historic March on Washington in August 1963. Attended by some 250,000 people, it was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation’s capital. The event is remembered for Lewis’ keynote address and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
In 1964, he coordinated voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer, a campaign in June 1964 that attempted to register as many African-American voters as possible. The following year, Lewis helped lead over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, with intentions to march to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday” and hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). Under his leadership, the VEP transformed the nation’s political climate by adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls.
He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then.
John Lewis holds a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been awarded over fifty honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards from eminent national and international institutions, including the only John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement ever granted.
Blueprint for Peace
One of the architects of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, an agreement between Israel and Palestine, Shimon Peres has been involved in the government of Israel since 1952. During his long political career he held many cabinet positions, including Prime Minister. In 2007, the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, elected Peres as its President.
Born in Poland in 1923, Peres spent the formative years of his youth under the tutelage of his grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, where he learned the Talmud and followed Haredi Judaism, which is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism. In 1934, Peres and his family moved to Tel Aviv, which was still part of Palestine. During World War II, all of Peres’ remaining relatives in Poland were killed for their religious beliefs.
Peres began his career in government when he was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense in 1952. He became a Member of the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body in 1959, but is perhaps best known for his work as Israel’s Foreign Minister starting in 1986.
As foreign minister, Shimon Peres participated in 14 separate meetings in Oslo, Norway, with Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat negotiating a path to peace. Throughout the lengthy meetings, both sides stayed in the same residence and often shared meals together, leading to a growing bond between the people involved. The Oslo Peace Accords were eventually signed by both sides on September 13, 1993 at the White House in Washington, D.C.
The Nobel Peace Prize 1994 was awarded jointly to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East. In his Nobel acceptance speech Peres stated that "classical diplomacy and strategy were aimed at identifying enemies and confronting them. Now they have to identify dangers, global or local, and tackle them before they become disasters."
In 2007 Peres was chosen by Kadima, a centrist and liberal political party in Israel, to run for President. Peres was elected by the Knesset on June 13, 2007. He was sworn in as President on July 15, 2007 for a seven-year term. He is the first former Prime Minister to be elected President of Israel. He continues to work on building a peaceful future as the President of Israel.