The Elders at Pillars of Peace Hawaii's student discussion | Hawaii Community Foundation
While in Oahu for Pillars of Peace Hawaii, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Hina Jilani and Desmond Tutu took part in a live-streamed event with students.
Following a central theme of ethical leadership and promoting the values of responsibility and compassion, the three Elders answered questions sent from students via social media. Levels of online engagement were high, with dozens of live tweets and questions submitted, and over 1,300 people watching it live or since broadcast.
One of the questions posed to the Elders was on leadership. How did they become leaders and how can young people do the same?
Desmond Tutu explained that leadership was thrust upon him, later elaborating on how the support from others spurred him on with his work:
When you stand in a crowd & they say you are a leader, it's only because you are standing on the shoulders of others – Desmond Tutu #PeaceHI— The Elders (@TheElders) August 30, 2014
While Gro Harlem Brundtland reflected on how young people can become leaders:
We all have leadership qualities in us; the question is where does your inspiration come from & how can you contribute? – GHB #PeaceHI— The Elders (@TheElders) August 30, 2014
The topics covered during the discussion ranged from activism and the current crisis in Gaza, to peace more broadly. Answering the question:
What do you believe to be the greatest impediment to peace? #PeaceHI— Monique Boucher (@Monique_Boucher) August 30, 2014
Gro Harlem Brundtland said “Egoism – people thinking about themselves, not looking at the whole.”
Hina Jilani took a different approach:
"Misconception of sovereignty is an impediment to peace. Governments/states are not sovereign. People are sovereign." Hina Jilani #peacehi— Lindsey Bailey (@anabindsey) August 30, 2014
Each Elder left the students with a final message. Hina Jilani urged the students to focus on the positive, despite the challenges and difficulties they may face, reflecting:
“People used to make fun of me for standing 25 years with a placard saying 'down with such an such law'... Yes I did stand there for 25 years but what we succeeded in doing was making women visible as a force to contend with.”
Desmond Tutu spoke last, rising from his chair to tell the students:
The event ended with a hula dance, one of the opportunities the Elders had of discovering Hawaiian culture. They were eager to learn about Hawaii’s history, diversity and values, meeting with civil society groups and leaders while in the state.
After the debate, some of the students in the audience were interviewed about their experience of the discussion:
“They looked at us as people with real potential to go out into the world and I didn't expect that from them.”
Hawaii News Now featured some of these interviews in their news report.
Watch the debate