2013 AEP Forum
Celebrating Cultural Understanding in Elkader, Iowa
Distinguished guests from around the world gathered at the historic Elkader Opera House for the 5th Annual Abdelkader Education Project (AEP) Forum held on May 4th.
The AEP Forum has grown from honoring local Iowa high school students to honoring nationwide high school and college students. Next year, the Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize essay contests will expand internationally.
“I am hopeful that the proliferation of more stories such as Abdelkader’s stories – which seek to unite and not to rend – will help us all see that violence is not the answer and help us to rely on more meaningful communication and mutual understanding,” Marwa Sayed, Boston University Academy, Massachusetts remarked in her acceptance of the second place $500 award at the national high school level.
In addition to Sayed, five other students were honored during the AEP Forum. Florian Riederer of North Andover High School, Massachusetts, received the 1st place award of $1,000 at the national high school level. The Iowa high school 1stplace $1,000 award went to Noreen Gentry of Decorah and Hannah Gaffney of Manchester received the 2nd place $500 award. At the U.S. collegiate level, Jeanette Guellil of Webster University, Missouri, received $1,500 for 1st place and 2nd place winner Maxwell Lykins, University of Wisconsin, Madison, received $1,000.
During his acceptance remarks, Lykins commented on the themes he believed constitute Abdelkader’s worthy legacy. “These are: humanity in the face of conflict, magnanimity in victory, and perseverance in defeat. Our world would be a kinder place if we all strove to act in such a worthy manner.”
“[Abdelkader] sets a challenging example of patience and perseverance in his faith. He also shows how tolerating others need not involve, in any way, the lessening of one’s convictions,” Riederer noted during his acceptance remarks.
Ambassador Abdallah Baali of the Algerian Embassy in Washington DC was an honored guest and opened the Forum. Keynote speaker Ahmed Moustafa, a leading international authority on Arabic art and design, focused on the integration of art, aesthetics, and Emir Abdelkader. His emphasis is to build cultural bridges of mutual respect and understanding through the medium of his art.
Moustafa’s presentation set the stage for a panel discussion that included Dr. Ali Jazairy, head of Innovation and Technology for WIPO at the UN, Geneva, Switzerland; Dr. Liang Chee Wee, President of Northeast Iowa Community College, Calmar, Iowa; Jerene Mortenson, retired teacher and school administrator, South Dakota; and Mustafa. The discussion was moderated by John Kiser, author of Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader.
Dr. Jazairy, a descendant of Abdelkader, spoke about his work in relation to the intellectual property landscape. Jazairy is currently overseeing plans for open innovation collaboration seminars that will be supplemented by lectures, as well as hypothetical situations, to help students learn. “The Abdelkader Education Project is an excellent vessel through which young people can be encouraged to open their minds,” Jazairy stated. Northeast Iowa seminars will coordinate with the Abdelkader Project Education Forum in May 2014.
“With knowledge of history,” Jazairy said, “these young generations are stronger and richer and can shoot for the stars and will make Northeast Iowa a local, regional, and global leader.”
Fouad Chergui, artistic director of the Abdelkader Popular Education Festival in France, shared his plans to host the 2ndannual Festival in Lyon this December to celebrate and honor Emir Abdelkader. Chergui is working with CLAP (connection, local, action and plural), a social work association in Lyon, to collaborate with the Abdelkader Education Project.
“The Abdelkader Education Project has grown exponentially since its inception in late 2009,” noted Kathy Garms, Project Director. “In the coming year, the Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize truly will be a global leadership prize as we further expand to offer scholarship awards to students from around the world.”
The mission of the Abdelkader Education Project is to build cultural bridges of understanding through the life stories of real people who can inspire others. The Abdelkader Education Project promotes cultural literacy, civility, and understanding while reviving important lost history with relevance for today. The multifaceted life of Emir Abdelkader, a widely acclaimed 19th century Arab statesman, humanitarian, warrior, religious scholar and ethical leader, is the vehicle for the global education project. For more information about the Abdelkader Education Project, please visit www.abdelkaderproject.org or email Kathy Garms, Project Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.