Celebrities Headline Mid East Event

Celebrities Headline Mid East Event

Albright underscores need for persistence in achieving lasting peace during youth-oriented event

Seeds of Peace, an educational organization that brings together Jewish and Islamic teenagers from 22 nations for a summer camp experience in Maine, held its annual Bid for Peace Celebrity Auction at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on February 10.

Franken opened with a political quip, saying he had just come from “the Seeds of War” event sponsored by Richard Perle, the hawkish Defense Department official.

In keeping with his widely publicized attacks on the Bush administration, Franken lobbed the occasional jab, as when he asked the audience to applaud Bush for not planting weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify the war.

Later, Franken denounced the Rev. Pat Robertson for claiming homosexuals and liberals were the reason for the attacks on the World Trade Center, saying, “Many of us are here in this room.”

Franken talked of supporting U.S. troops abroad during USO gigs, describing how he once brought cheerleaders in “tear-away burkas” to one event.

Albright’s speech focused on the failures of Middle Eastern leaders to bring peace to the region. Saying “the obscene has become routine,” Albright said she felt that many have come to accept violence as part of the political decision-making process. Looking at the youths from Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine behind her, Albright said, “Listening to these young people, we know we should never accept this.”

Albright cautioned Western leaders to not simply expect to impose peace.

“We can’t make the choices for those who live in the Middle East,” she said.

Afterwards, a $10,000 winning bid in the charity auction got a lunch engagement with the former diplomat.

The actress Bebe Neuwirth also attended the event.

“Seeds of Peace is a great organization based on a beautiful, simple concept that has the potential to do some of the greatest good imaginable,” said Neuwirth who also offered a lunch engagement in the auction.

Among other celebrity attendees was 2003’s Miss Universe, Amelia Vega, a native of the Dominican Republic who now lives in New York City.

Dr. David Allyn, the step-son of John Wallach, the deceased founder of Seeds of Peace, said that Wallace, the foreign editor of Hearst Publications, “knew key players of the Middle East and knew the way to make peace was with the next generation.”

Wallach created Seeds of Peace in 1993 as an outreach effort among teenagers from Israel, Palestine and Egypt shortly after the first Twin Towers bombing.

Allyn, a social scientist, credits Seeds of Peace with helping him in his own life.

“I Can’t Believe I Just Did That,” Allyn’s recent book, recalls embarrassing and shameful moments in his life, “specifically about how we try to control the image others have of us.” By working directly with the youths and how they were raised to deal with other cultures, Allyn said he learned “about how we hide, about how we lash out.” Allyn began as a camp counselor with Seeds of Peace, eventually becoming a board member.

Christopher Rucas of Ruder Finn, the public relations firm that promoted the event pro bono, said he was glad to see the “overall response and enthusiasm for the mission and the cause” and reported that nearly 1,200 ticket holders attended.

Rucas said the best part of his job is helping the program’s youth to deal with the media, and to create media-savvy “future leaders” who foster inter-ethnic understanding in their own countries.

More information about Seeds of Peace is available on its website seedsofpeace.org.

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