Another picture and article about the event
Queen Noor calls women vital to peace
By Karen Roebuck
Monday, June 20, 2005
While women remain on the fringes of power, they are crucial to world peace and nations' recoveries after wars, Queen Noor of Jordan told nearly 800 people Sunday evening in Oakland.
"Women have a unique position at the heart of society but on the fringes of power," she said. "Perhaps women's greatest strength is to do what many men find so difficult -- to reach out and build relationships."
At a dinner following the speech at the Carnegie Music Hall, Queen Noor was given the Carlow University International Women of Spirit Award by Sister Grace Ann Geibel, Carlow's president. Queen Noor exemplifies the university's ideals and missions of competence and compassion in leadership and service to others, Geibel said.
Although her speech was sponsored by the International Poetry Forum, Queen Noor said she was not a poetry expert but quoted numerous poets during her speech.
She quoted Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian female poets, saying, "These poets are women united in their horror of war and their longing for peace."
She said she has worked with women all over the world struggling to overcome deprivation and conflicts, "a form of poetry in motion."
Dressed in a flowing, floor-length light turquoise gown with beaded beige and lime trim, she began by saying it was her first visit to "the home of Andy Warhol but also the Steelers, the Pirates, the Penguins and their infamous fans." She noted Pittsburgh also is home to medical achievements and Mister Rogers.
"I live in quite a turbulent neighborhood myself and wish more would reach out and say 'I would like to be your neighbor,' too," she said.
The American-born Queen said she was privileged to live at the center of both the Arab and Western worlds, and the one lesson has been repeated throughout her life: "How much we are so fundamentally alike in what we dream of, what we aspire to, what we pray for."
During a question-and-answer session with the audience following her speech, Queen Noor was both lauded for her role in peace efforts in Israel, Palestine and the Middle East and asked to defend what one Israeli-American audience member viewed as anti-Israeli and anti-American statements she had made previously. The man did not say what those comments were.
Queen Noor said she was not sure what statements he was talking about -- and denied being either anti-Semitic or anti-American -- but said she felt it was important for her to discuss the needs and suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.
"If we don't take account of both sides, we'll never find peace in the region," she said.
Queen Noor, 53, who was born Lisa Halaby, and King Hussein were married June 15, 1978. She was his fourth wife, and his son by a previous marriage is now Jordan's King Abdullah. Queen Noor and King Hussein's son, one of his 12 children, is the crown prince and next in line for the throne.
Saying she was from Israel, Nitsa Ford, 35, of Squirrel Hill, began crying as she recalled "the very sad day that King Hussein had left us" and was unable to say what she longed to ask his widow. King Hussein died in 1999 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Queen Noor remained poised as she assured Ford that many Jordanians and Arabs felt the same when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Rabin and her husband were great leaders who shared a common thread of seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel and inspiring others, she said.
That gave Ford, seated in the balcony, time to calm down to ask what Jordan's role will be in the peace process now without Hussein.
"I certainly hope and pray that Jordan will continue to be a key element not only in the search for peace, but in mediating and providing an inclusive spirit in the region," the queen said.
Afterward, Ford said she could not explain why she had become so emotional. "I can't explain it. I think the peace or the struggle for peace is so overwhelming. It's within us," she said.
Another woman asked the queen what ingredients were needed for peace. "It would have a lot of X chromosomes in it," Queen Noor said.