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Queen Noor talks empowering women at Judson Univeristy

posted on: Apr 19, 2016

Gloria Casas
Chicago Tribune
Children often expect Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan to wear a tiara and be like the fairy tale characters they read about, but the Arab-American queen is down-to-earth and focused on empowering women.

Queen Noor brought her message to Judson University’s World Leaders Forum Monday at the University’s Elgin campus.

Everyone in the world, no matter where they live or what social, economic, religion or ethnic background they have, aspires to have a meaningful life and create new possibilities for their children, Queen Noor said. The way to live a meaningful life is to realize there is something greater than yourself and accept responsibility to one another, she said.

“This is the only path to security, prosperity and peace, but it requires us all to work and serve together,” Queen Noor said.

Queen Noor of Jordan has spent more than 40 years on the world stage. She married His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan in 1978. Her work has focused on education, sustainable development, human rights, cross-cultural understanding and empowering women.

She was born into an Arab-American family and grew up in Washington D.C. where her father worked under President John F. Kennedy’s administration. She graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture and urban planning.

She always felt connected to the wider world through her family and her father’s work in the Kennedy administration, she said.

Her first career goal was to answer President Kennedy’s call for her generation to serve in the Peace Corp. As a college student, she participated in anti-war demonstrations and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. He led through example, not through force or encouraging violence and sought moral solutions to injustice, she said.

A very different type of leadership has been the topic of American newspaper headlines lately, she said. “The political process seems to be breaking down to extremes,” she said. The political battles in the U.S. resonate around the world, she said.

“This disharmonic reconciliation that stokes the fear of others and puts up walls instead of putting up Liberty’s torch is a stark contrast” of the inclusive, egalitarian values of this country, Queen Noor said. These values have been the truest source of strength and influence to so many around the world, she added.

The Queen has seen the ravages decades of war has had on the Middle East. One third of Jordan’s population is refugees, she said. The population has grown exponentially and 60 million in total have been driven from their homes due to violence, half of that figure are children, she said.

The increasing number of refugees in the Middle East has become a polarizing, political issue in the U.S. and around the world, she said. Countries face economic pressures when taking in refugees, for example, Jordan has taken in 1.5 million refugees — a considerable number given its size, Queen Noor said. However, the situation serves to remind everyone of our common humanity, she said.

A simple concept that can be found in three of the major religions of the world is treat others as you want to be treated, she said. Only by working together, beyond borders, can that people transcend hopelessness and insecurity, she said.

Empowering women also helps transcend hopelessness and insecurity, she said.

The old saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” should say, in her experience, “teach a woman to fish and everyone eats,” Queen Noor said.

Women provide the day to day needs as well as inspire their children to achieve more, she said. Women tend to oppose violence and promote reconciliation, she said.

“I have seen this time and time again in many regions, women are not simply a category to be addressed or ignored, they are the key to many solutions we need,” Queen Noor said. “Far more than airstrikes or boots on the ground, women combat poverty, desperation and radicalization,” she said, receiving applause.

“I still aspire and hope and pray that girl power in our region will help us realize the potential and rights of Muslim women everywhere,” said the Queen, who has seven granddaughters.

In her world of displaced, marginalized and crushing poverty, she has seen the seeds of perpetual insecurity and conflict, Queen Noor said. But where investments are made to educate women, provide jobs and create security, people have been able to prosper and become agents of change, she said.

Judson University junior Kimberly Blake found Queen Noor’s speech inspiring. She felt the Queen provided a different perspective of world events and found she was down-to-earth.

Lisa Chavarria, from Fox 32 Chicago News, moderated the forum. Judson University President Gene Crume presented Queen Noor with a 1950s era Lady Elgin watch as a gift from the University.