Queen Noor of Jordan
Queen calls for compassion at N.Y.U. leaders talk
By Ed Gold
A queen, a Buddhist lama and a rabbi joined forces recently at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts to enlist support for a world based on tolerance and peace and against violence and fundamentalism.
Speaking before a packed auditorium at the Sept. 24
event were Queen Noor of Jordan, the Sakyong Jamgon Miphan Rinpoche of Tibet and Rabbi Irwin Kula of the U.S.
The theme of what N.Y.U. President John Sexton called one of a series of “groundbreaking discussions” was: “Compassionate Leadership: Cultivating the Leaders of Tomorrow,” aimed at the “maturing generation,” which translates into college students.
Adding a fourth path to the interfaith discussion was Jerry Murdock of Insight Ventures Partners, who served as moderator and noted that he was agnostic.
Murdock opened the conversation noting that in recent days people worried about the American financial crisis, and thought “the world was falling apart.”
Queen Noor responded on an optimistic note, recalling historically that leadership based on “humanity and dignity” had met other serious challenges, citing Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama as principal examples.
Noor also reminded the audience of the “outpouring of goodwill from all over the world” following the devastation of 9/11; it was that kind of global connection that could help bring peace and tolerance among different societies, she said.
She noted the uneven status of people in various societies and the need for new leaders to create a fairer global environment. Half of her life, she said, “I’ve dealt with people who just worried about surviving every day.”
Later, the queen referred to her late husband, King Hussein of Jordan, as a leader who believed in bringing people together and combating violence and fundamentalism, adding that he tried to find common ground between the Israelis and the Arabs.
Rabbi Kula stressed tolerance of differing opinions, suggesting that when liberals and conservatives engage in discussions, neither side should be motivated by anger. In his view, “No one is ever 100 percent right.”
Showing a lighter side, the rabbi mentioned that his was an intermarriage: “I graduated from Columbia and my wife graduated from N.Y.U.,” which drew laughter from the audience.
The lama also showed a sly humor, urging more compassion between peoples, but adding that “compassion is really a good idea if you have time for it.”
He also stressed that sound leadership required seeing “the other side,” and suggested that candidates for office should practice introspection, asking themselves “What really got me here?”
Repeatedly, the three speakers urged compassion as a vital aspect of good leadership. The rabbi noted that “compassion requires good discipline and courage,” and that too many people in authority were too quick to lash out at opponents.
Kula also mentioned that leadership required a degree of optimism.
“We need to feel that there are always allies out there, and also, when we lose heart, we need a refresher, and friendships can help,” he said.
People who seek a better world, he noted with a touch of sarcasm, “to use a nasty word, need to organize.”
A live broadcast of the complete conversation is available at http://wagner.nyu.edu.leadership/news/compassionate_leadership.php.