The honorees and Rob Stafford with Niagara staff
By: Eleanor Peck, Director of Communications and Member Relations
The Eighth Annual Peace & Dialogue awards were held at the beautiful Cathedral Hall at the University Club of Chicago this past Monday, September 16th. The event, which takes place every year to honor local Chicagoans dedicated to promoting peace and dialogue in their community, was filled with some who were new to the Niagara Community and some who have been attending our programs for years. The Honorary Chair of the event was Fethullah Gulen, Islamic scholar, preacher, social advocate, and honorary president of the Niagara Foundation. The Co-Chair of the event was Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois.
The private reception before the awards ceremony
The evening started with the emcee, Rob Stafford, of NBC5, detailing the importance of recognizing accomplishments in peace and dialogue as our city becomes more globalized. He stressed the growing number of international visitors coming to Chicago as an example of this globalization of our city.
Awards Ceremony at Cathedral Hall in the University Club
The Commitment Award went to Hon. Anne Burke, Illinois Supreme Court justice and founder of the Special Olympics. As a surprise both to her and the audience, Hon. Burke’s husband, Alderman Ed Burke, introduced her. Hon. Burke spoke about being struck by a young Muslim woman she met, who said, “my jihad is peace.” Judge Burke said this phrase was more complex than even many of the court briefs she’s read and even written. Despite its apparent simplicity, Judge Burke argued that the idea of waging peace is a powerful tool for doing good in the world.
Hon. Anne Burke
The Community Service Award went to the City Club of Chicago and was accepted by Paul Green, Chairman of the City Club. The award was presented by Chicago City Clerk, Susana Mendoza. Paul Green discussed how the City Club is continuing its longstanding role as the place to go for public debate in the City of Chicago. As an example of the City Club’s continuing influence, he told the story of a recent forum they held, which made national news. The newsworthiness of the forum was the bipartisanship it extolled. At the forum, representatives Paul Ryan and Luis Gutierrez, a Tea Party Republican and a Chicago Democrat, discussed immigration reform. Green used this example to illustrate the crucial role that the City Club plays by influencing debate across party lines in the City of Chicago, and the world.
Prof. Paul Green
Finally, The Gulen Award was presented to Dr. Cherif Bassiouni. Dr. Bassiouni’s friend and colleague, Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel, presented him with the award. While Ambassador Bindenagel was presenting the award to Bassiouni, a slideshow leapt across the screens, showing all the amazing things Bassiouni has accomplished in his life. There were photos of him in Antarctica, sailing in the Caribbean, and entering Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. Not to mention the pictures from Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Cairo. It was the world tour of Dr. Bassiouni’s life and exemplified how much he deserved the Gulen award. Dr. Bassiouni spoke first about how honored he was to receive an award named after Fethullah Gulen. Bassiouni called Gulen a renaissance man, no doubt thinking of the many roles Gulen fills as an author, religious leader, poet and thinker. Bassiouni also spoke about the gap that faith fills in all our lives. He said the gap of knowledge between what we know and we don’t know has stayed the same throughout time, and that gap is filled with faith. His beautiful message was a lovely way to end the evening.
Prof. Cherif Bassiouni
We at the Niagara Foundation would like to thank our sponsors for their generous donations to the Peace and Dialogue Awards: Elmhurst College, BNSF Railways, the Chicago Tribune, Roosevelt University, Mesirow Financial, and special thanks to our Chicago River sponsor, MPI Media Group.
We are so grateful for our sponsors, and also for all of those able to celebrate with us at the awards. We at the Niagara Foundation hold the Peace and Dialogue awards in order to express how much we appreciate our community’s dedication and service.
Finally, we’d also like to thanks Core Design Productions for their multimedia work and Yunus Uslu for the photographs, some of which are posted above.