Archive for April, 2010

Global Problems:

Obstacles and Opportunities


At Worcester Academy’s Ross Auditorium, Warner Theater

Dates and Times TBA

International cooperation is an imperative in the 21st century; humanity faces global crises of epic proportions–global warming, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, conflict in nearly every corner of the world, the spread of disease, economic uncertainty, and an enormous gulf between rich and poor. Despite the obvious need, international organizations (such as the U.N.) have never been weaker; the forces of nationalism, separatism, violence and hatred have never been stronger. And while there are many obstacles standing in the way—ultra-nationalism, parochialism, oil dependency, burgeoning nation-state debt, population pressures and disturbing demographic trends—there are people and organizations making a difference, trying to devise solutions in a variety of areas (from organizations like the World Bank to NGOs and universities and other civic organizations).

The Open Gates lecture series, 2010-11, looks at global problems; it will identify three of them—global conflict, poverty, and hunger. It will explore the root causes of these problems. And it will highlight the work and ideas of those engaged in finding solutions to these important problems.

Padraig O’Malley on Peace/Global Conflict

Our first quest speaker will be Padraig O’Malley, Professor of Peace and Reconciliation, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston. Professor O’Malley is the distinguished John Joseph Moakley Professor of Peace and Reconciliation in the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies. Numerous stories have been written about him in the nation’s dailies and he has been recently awarded the Liberal International Award for his achievements in the field of international peace and negotiation. His most recent achievement has been peace negotiations among the warring factions in Iraq. Former South African president Nelson Mandela has written a 10,000-word foreword to his book “Shades of Difference.” For most of his professional life, Professor O’Malley has been involved with peace initiatives in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Iraq and other countries.

Congressman James McGovern on Global Hunger

Currently serving his seventh term in Congress, Jim McGovern was first sworn in as U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District on January 7, 1997. McGovern is the Vice Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets the terms for debate and amendments on most legislation, and a member of the House Budget Committee. McGovern is also co-chair of both the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the House Hunger Caucus. Before his election to Congress, the 49-year-old McGovern spent fourteen years working as a senior aide for the late U.S. Representative John Joseph Moakley (D-South Boston), former dean of the Massachusetts delegation and Chairman of the House Rules Committee. During those years, McGovern earned a strong reputation as a champion of human rights. In 1989, McGovern was chosen by Congressman Moakley to lead a congressional investigation into the murders of six Jesuit priests and two lay women in El Salvador.

Jonathan Starr on the Failure of Aid Work and NGOs in Africa

The 2010 recipient of the Worcester Academy’s Young Alumnus Recognition Award, Mr. Jonathan Starr (WA’94) prides himself on bringing a business model to improving conditions in Africa as opposed to the more traditional approach of NGOs, the World Bank, and other relief agencies. A graduate from Emory University, he is also the founder of Flagg Street Capital (named as a tribute to the Flagg Street School in Worcester). It is a private investment company that manages more than $170 million of investor assets. Before he founded Flagg Street, Mr. Starr worked as an analyst at SAB Capital and Blavin & Company. He is the co-founder and Managing Director of Abaarso Tech, a non-profit organization and boarding school in Somaliland, where he seeks to offer world-class education to people of the Horn of Africa. Now in its inaugural year, the school is attracting top local and international minds to teach Somaliland’s most promising youth.  Additionally, it provides professional development for teachers and others professionals, and assists rural populations by placing teachers in village schools and working on community improvements.

Richard Ford, “Listening to the People: Development as If People Mattered”

Richard Ford, Ph.D. Research Professor of International Development and Social Change at Clark University,  has 40 years field experience in rural African land use and management. His writings focus on community institutions, integration of traditional practices into contemporary decision-making and policy, poverty alleviation, conflict mediation, and community-based planning. He has worked in 25 African countries (especially Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, Ghana, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Senegal, Mali, The Gambia, Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, and Rwanda) on these themes. More recently, he has conducted field research and training in India, The Philippines, Romania, Iraq, Bangladesh, and the South Pacific. In 1988, working jointly with colleagues from Clark and Kenya’s National Environment Secretariat, he adapted the Rapid Rural Appraisal to be responsive to community priorities and needs. This was the beginning of PRA. Since that time, PRA has spread to many thousands of agencies in Africa and around the world.

Previous Guests

Edward J. Hines/Ethnomusicologist

Edward Hines plays the sazi

Middle Eastern music program with Fulbright scholar, composer, performer, ethnomusicologist and music educator Edward J Hines, an introduction to fascinating instruments that have unique sounds and have been played in Middle Eastern music since the Middle Ages. Learn how ancient Middle Eastern musical instruments are connected to the music of Western cultures. Experience old-world sounds that once were common in both Europe and the Near East.

Tom Verde/Journalist

Our Guest speaker, free-lance journalist, Tom Verde has written for the New York Times and National Public Radio. He is pursuing a master’s degree in Islamic studies and Christian–Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. He traveled to Morocco on a scholarship from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion Newswriters Foundation. His latest article, “A Man of Two Worlds, appeared in Saudi Aramco World (January/February, 2008). On Leo Africanus, Verde’s work highlights the connections between the Middle East and the West.


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