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Appeal of Conscience Foundation: World Statesman Award to Lee Myung-bak, Pres. of South Korea

By Henry Levy; Photos: Gloria Starr Kins

From left: Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN; Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea; Rabbi Arthur Schneier; and Paul Volcker, Former Chairman of Federal Reserve.

From left: Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN; Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea; Rabbi Arthur Schneier; and Paul Volcker, Former Chairman of Federal Reserve.

His Excellency, Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea, welcomed as the newest member of an exclusive club: Recipient of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation's World Statesman Award for 2011. This year, as Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the Foundation's founder greeted the South Korean President and his honored guests, he reminisced about how ten years ago this Award Dinner was the first big event after 9/11. At that time, some expected attendees never survived the attacks on 9/11. The smell of human flesh from the destruction of the Twin Towers was still in the air along with the ghastly wisps of smoke rising towards the sky. The opening of the United Nation's General Assemby had to be delayed for a day due to the terror threats against the U.N. Schneier said, "It became a fortress, barricades, secret service there � and today there are still forces out there who wish to destroy our civilization. We need to rally together in our alliance for civilization. Freedom can not be extinguished." As a holocaust survivor, Schneier reminded us that he knew what tyranny and persecution was and that every people yearning to be free has had heroes fighting for that priviledge. He then went on to tell us how this year's honoree, Lee Myung-bak,as a young student fought for freedom for his family and his countrymen.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier (left) and Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier (left) and Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban ki-Moon, a South Korean citizen, saluted Rabbi Schneier as a living hero fighting for the dignity of man and for human rights. Then he went on to praise President Lee Myung-bak. Paul Volker also spoke and remembered how fifty years ago Korea was a very poor country, which should serve as a success story for all third world countries today yearning to succeed.

US Ambassador, John Negroponte, with Emcee Ms. Alina Cho, CNN Correspondent.

US Ambassador, John Negroponte, with Emcee Ms. Alina Cho, CNN Correspondent.

The President of South Korea had a very personal story to tell about his own life, which he considers a blessing. He spoke of his family growing up in a shantytown with access to water only on some days and being surrounded by poverty, which, by the way, he considers as one of worst forms of violence. As a student he learned at night school and became a day laborer. All he wanted was a regular job - the pay was actually less important than the dignity of working. He dreamt of college because he knew that education was the only and best way to stop poverty from keeping people down. That helps explain why Korean parents to this day stress education for their children. Lee became a student leader in the 1960's and was imprisoned for speaking in favor of democracy. He worked in construction building bridges and highways.

From left: A guest of Archbishop Justinian; Archbishop Justinian of Nano-Fomisk  (Russian Orthodox Church); and HE, Archbishop Demetrios (Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).

From left: A guest of Archbishop Justinian; Archbishop Justinian of Nano-Fomisk (Russian Orthodox Church); and HE, Archbishop Demetrios (Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).

He founded a charitable foundation and uses his fortune to provide scholarships to those in need. He said, "The boy who once received aid from others, stands before you as a President who gives aid to others. We have thousands that do that as well." He established his own country's version of the Peace Corps to help other countries. Last year he visited Ethiopia and for two days performed as a regular volunteer, working alongside other volunteers to personally see what the Ethiopian people needed. Remarkable! He said that too many people are frustrated with no jobs and he wants to help change that. He knows it will take many people helping out to achieve this since, as he indicated, government can only do so much.

John Castimatidis, CEO of Red Apple Group, with his wife, Margo.<

John Castimatidis, CEO of Red Apple Group, with his wife, Margo.

He lamented about Korea being divided and "dreamed of building enough internal trust to move towards a unified Korea as a friend to the world and global peace." He considers that his calling. He also noted how America helped his country keep the peace and become prosperous and says they are now strong enough to enter a free trade agreement with the US as a partner.

For more information about the work of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation please call 212-535-5800 or go to: www.appealofconscience.com.

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