By Maria Saporta
A host of international leaders and celebrities were on hand for the “pre-announcement ceremony” Friday morning of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates — a prestigious event that will be held in Atlanta from Nov. 15 to 19, 2015.
Atlanta competed against several other cities to host the summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, only the second time the gathering will have been in the United States.
Atlanta won the event thanks to the enthusiasm of Prof. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize who has made Atlanta his second home; as well as Mohammad Bhuiyan, CEO of the Yunus Creative Lab, who will be the CEO of the 2015 Summit.
“Atlanta deserves to be the host city for the Nobel Laureates for many reasons,” Yunus said Friday mentioning the city’s history in civil and human rights. “Atlanta has a great tradition of fighting for human rights.”
Yunus also praised Ted Turner, who will serve as the honorary chair of the summit, for championing the elimination of nuclear warheads.
“This city deserves to remind the world that peace has to be accomplished, not by governments, but by people,” said Yunus, who also acknowledged that Turner was celebrating his 75th birthday this week. “Atlanta deserves for this to not be a temporary event but a permanent event to remind the world of a peaceful world with human rights. That’s the objective, that’s the goal that this summit will have.”
Turner said Atlanta’s hosting of the 2015 Summit was “another feather in our cap,” saying it was a natural succession to the city’s hosting of the World Series and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
Several speakers mentioned how the Summit would be occurring 18 months after the opening of Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights and a year after the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. receiving his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
“It is in alignment with our city’s core values and identifies who we are as a city,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. “Atlanta was an essential city in launching a movement that changed our city, our state, our nation and our world.”
Laura Turner Seydel will chair the Atlanta Host Committee, which includes an all-star list of Atlanta and national leaders, many of whom were present for Friday’s ceremony.
Some notable names include actress Sharon Stone; CARE CEO Helene Gayle; Penny McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International; Mark Rosenberg, CEO of the Task Force for Global Health; and Virginia Hepner, CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center.
Other leaders who will be involved in the summit include former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young as well as Scott Davis, chairman and CEO of UPS.
One of the key new pieces of information announced Friday were the official dates of the summit. But Bhuiyan did not announce the location where the Summit will be held. When asked, he said they were still working on finalizing that issue.
The program for the ceremony, however, did say that the Summit expects to have several high profile entertainers, including John McLaughlin, Wynton Marsalis, Yanni, Yo-Yo Ma and Zakir Hussain.
Bhuiyan has said that the Atlanta Host Committee needs to raise at least $5 million to put on the event and another $5 million to implement lasting programs to continue the Summit’s legacy in the community.
A highlight of the event was the closing vocal performance by the daughter of Muhammad Yunus — soprano Monica Yunus — who is co-founding director of Sing for Hope.
Students from the Ron Clark Academy also opened up the ceremony with their own energetic performance.
The standing room-only crowd of about 150 to 200 people who came to the announcement Friday demonstrated the racial, cultural and ethnic diversity that has come to define Atlanta. It truly represented a wide cross-section of people from around the globe united behind a common purpose – to help make the world a more peaceful place.