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Sean Penn's Peace Summit Award Acceptance Speech: Haiti, Systemic Moral Corruption, A Sacred Debt

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by Sophia Savage
April 26, 2012 2:52 PM
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On April 25, Sean Penn accepted the Peace Summit Award at the twelfth annual Nobel Peace Laureate's World Summit in Chicago. The award was given to him by Nobel Peace Laureate president Mikhail Gorbachev and Mr. Udo Janz. His Holiness The Dalai Lama was also present. Penn's acceptance speech is below:

Thank you President Gorbachev and Mr. Udo Janz.  I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Nobel Peace Laureates and the Permanent Secretary of the World Summit for this very special honor.  And thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the people of Chicago.   Terry Mazzany and the Chicago Community Trust, my friend Kerry Kennedy and the RFK Center, Olivier Francois and The Chrysler group and all the co-chairs and sponsors.  I also must acknowledge the U.S. State Department, and my friends, Lieutenant General Ken Keen, US Army, former Haitian President Rene Preval, Dennis Kucinich, Jean-Max Bellerive and Council General Lesly Conde.

Most importantly, I want to thank my hero ... my son Hopper and daughter Dylan, and my Mom and brother Michael who are here today.

I once travelled to visit with a Masai tribe off the beaten tourist track in Tanzania.  I remember being moved and impressed…even delighted, that such a wholly untouched and unchanged culture could still exist, and that I wished it to continue.  I also remember expressing that wish to my guide and his reply was “Don’t wish that for them.  Any culture that remains static…will die.”  Sometimes the truth is counterintuitive.  In a globalized world those of us who would assert our own intuition, conditioned by the luck of birth to a country of relative choice, freedom, security, comfort and for some…even luxury – is an assertion of intuition, not unlike that of a big game hunter, who boasts his love of nature with the mounted heads of once proud creatures on his wall.  In truth we are often blinded, both on the right and the left, by our own political and mono-cultural romance with endless struggle, and all too often the temporary luxury of our division and detachment allow and propagate that endless struggle to be lived out for us by vicarious assault on those less fortunate.  But here’s the good news.  When our self interested bickering and self righteous dismissal of compromise among ourselves are exposed, our failure to sacred human debts leave, in the case of Haiti, nine million ancestors of a singular and heroic slave rebellion on their knees, in a half-life of poverty, despair, corruption and death, we have an OUT.  An excuse. We blame Haiti.  We cry corruption.  We who watched Exxon post an $11 billion profit in just its first quarter of last year.

Never fear, these words are not intended to decry all those who work in the oil industry, nor one to put this speaker apart in consumption, but simply the acknowledgement of a stranglehold where both legal lobbying and systemic moral corruption from an industry whose poisons leak not only from tankers and rigs, but virtually paralyze the arteries of our own governments and leave us with little place to use the cries of corruption as excuse for inaction at home or abroad.

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