HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the better part of an hour, three world leaders held the attention of hundreds of students from around Hawaii. And those students were also able to make a connection with those leaders.
It happened at an event called "Leaders Make the Future: The Wisdom of Elders and Youngers" at the Hawaii Convention Center. The Elders were retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, attorney and women's rights activist Hina Jilani of Pakistan, and the former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who praised Hawaii's cultural mix.
"You have every reason to be confident that you can see humanity as a whole because you already have a small piece of it, even here on the island, together," said Brundtland.
The three answered questions from students, submitted via social media. One student asked how peace of could be restored in the current crisis in Gaza between Hamas and Israel. It prompted an emotional prayer from Tutu.
"God, will you please hear us," he said, face and arms raised. "Please, know that we love all of your people. And pray that the Israelis should not damage themselves as they are now."
Jilani told the students her story of fighting for human rights in her home country.
"What we had succeeded in doing was making visible women as a force to contend with," she said.
"With her encouraging me, that women are strong and empowering, I was like, I can do this. I believe in equality," said Mid-Pacific Institute student Samantha Komiyama.
"I thought that they would look at us students as growing pupils who are still trying to learn," said Aina Katsikas, who attends Sacred Hearts Academy. "But they looked at us as people who have the potential to go out into the world, and I didn't expect that from them."
When asked what final piece of advice he had for students, Tutu said, "I want you to go out believing you have the capacity to change the world."
"I could connect to that, and that I could change the world with friends," said Aiea High School student Kimson Sanchez.
"I was really excited to see that I got to talk to these world leaders and just hear what it's like from a higher position," said Courtney Kong, another Aiea High School student.
The three Elders are being hosted by the Hawaii Community Foundation's Pillars of Peace program. They are scheduled to appear Sunday morning at a roundtable with environmental leaders to discuss climate change at the East-West Center, and then Sunday afternoon at a public forum at the Hawaii Convention Center.