Jun 20, 2012

Fourth Annual President's Conference Honors Dr. Henry Kissinger

I went this evening to the 4th annual Presiential Conference in Jerusalem, hosted by President Shimon Peres. The theme of this years conference is "Facing Tomorrow 2012" - designing a better future.

The conference is going to run through Thursday evening and has a tremendous lineup of speakers and panelists, with a few special sessions for bloggers. I don't know how much I will be able to go the next couple of days, but I went tonight and it was really an amazing event.

To be brief, the evening started off with some excitement. I was invited with some other bloggers and members of the press to a news conference of Shimon Peres meeting the Chairman of Google Eric Shmidt. After registering, a few of us went up to where it was. We got to a security post and had to wait to get special permission to pass and be escorted through. We went upstairs, only to be stopped at another security post. After some waiting and clearing things up, we were allowed to pass, only to be stopped yet again. After being allowed to pass the third security post, we were stopped at the fourth and not allowed through. After a few minutes the manager of the security detail came out and said no, and then added it does not matter because they are finishing already anyways. Instead of a press conference, they only held a photo shoot and it was just about finished already.

Picture courtesy of Real Jerusalem Streets
The session started with a series of speakers and panelists, each presenting his or her vision for the future. The session started with a discussion between Dr. Yossie Vardi and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. That session was extremely enjoyable. Dr. Ruth is a real firecracker at 84 years old. She is funny, energetic, dynamic and so positive and active. She mentioned how she had fought with the Hagana and can still shoot 5 bullets in a tight ring, and that she thinks she can still throw a hand-grenade! They discussed social media, while putting it into perspective and encouraging real relationships as well, actually turning things off and talking to one's friend or spouse. Dr. Ruth said people need to be productive. She discussed some of her plans for the future, and that she does not hang out with people who complain they are tired - she tells them to go home and rest and then she goes and looks for other people to spend time with.

Another fascinating speaker was Keren Leibovitch, a paralympic swimmer who holds a number of world records, has won a number of gold medals and world championships, and is the mother to two sets fo twins. She described her experiences becomign a champion swimmer, and her main message was to not be afraid of failure, as that is the stepping stone to success.

Other fascinating speakers were Yuri Millner, Professor Daniel Kahaneman and Google chairman Eric Shmidt.

After a break, the main session was lef by Shimon Peres opening, and presenting a new medal, the Israeli Medal of Distinction, to Dr. Henry Kissinger, for his great work throughout his career on behalf of Israel and on behalf of humanity.

After laying out some thoughts and visions, along with some interesting and humorous vignettes, Peres presented the medal to Kissinger. Kissinger said that at 89 it is strange to say but he wishes his parents would have been there to see this - he said they would have appreciated this more than any of the awards and honors he had previously received.

Tony Blair closed the session out with his vision for the future, with much praise for Shimon Peres specifically, and for how far Israel has come. A main point made by Blair was when he said "We have no option but to stay engaged in this part of the world. Democracy is not just a way of voting. It’s a way of thinking. It’s about freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of religion."

The sessions for the coming days look intriguing and fascinating. I hope I will be able to attend some parts of it.

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