2011 U.S. WILPF Congress Speakers & Event Highlights
The schedule of the 31st US WILPF Congress featured an unusually dynamic and informative set of speakers and line-up of special events. Opening remarks shared by Congress Program Co-Chair Elenita Muniz eloquently reminded us of the purpose of our gathering as she “channeled” the stories of our 1915 founding WILPF sisters when they met for the 1st WILPF Congress, and then carefully outlined how much WILPF work still remains to be done, stating “End War doesn’t mean simply Stop the Bombs, or Get Rid of the Guns."
It means ending EVERYTHING that causes or results from war.” Speaker Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, deepened our understanding of the stark reality of war when she spoke to a lunch-time WILPF audience about her experiences over the course of her 27 visits to Iraq and 4 most recent trips to Afghanistan. She gave a stirring account of the people she met on her travels and the conditions they faced, as people caught in between a repressive government and the invading forces of the U.S. and others. Reverend William Barber, President of North Carolina's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and National Board Member of the NAACP was a powerfully moving speaker, who interspersed his advocacy of social justice and appreciation of WILPF with a call to "Be a voice, not an echo." At the conclusion of his address, Dr. Barber led a caravan of WILPFers to the State Capitol in Raleigh to vigil outside the General Assembly and bear witness to the passage of a State budget that served the interests of the few at the expense of the many (view a video here). The final plenary speaker was WILPF International Secretary General Madeleine Rees, who gave a strong and clearly articulated account of her work for WILPF and the growth of our sister sections, along with an inspiring explanation of how WILPF works within various United Nations bodies to call member countries accountable to their obligations to uphold UN principles.
Congress special events included an enlightening play entitled, "The Prosecution of Judge Waite," written and produced by Jim Allison, about the 1886 Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, where the misleading notes of a not- so-simple court clerk led to U.S. Supreme Court’s subsequent decisions granting corporations constitutional “personhood.”
Cape Cod WILPF member Kristen Knowles gave an impromptu dramatic performance of her original poetry. Her presentation was so moving that Kristen has been invited to perform at the upcoming Democracy Convention in Wisconsin where WILPF is planning to have a strong collective presence.
Saturday’s Gala Reception included cocktails, delicious Indian fare, and a premier showing of the film “The Whistle Blower” in which Madeleine Rees’s work within the U.N. to expose the wide-scale human trafficking scandal involving U.S. military contractor, Dyncorp and the United Nations in postwar Bosnia is depicted in the disturbing true story written by Larysa Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan. Following the film, Madeleine along with Donna Bickford, Director of the Carolina Women's Center and expert on human trafficking in the U.S., took questions from the audience and emphasized the profound need to institute international policy changes on diplomatic immunity that allow criminal acts to go unpunished. Madeleine concluded by urging all of us to send a clear message to our elected leaders: "diplomatic immunity cannot equal immunity from prosecution for criminal acts."
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