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UN International Day of Families 2014

International Day of Families Observed in Washington DC

Washington DC, USA - “Families Matter for the Achievement of Development Goals” was the theme of the program on the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The program was held in the Washington Times Beech room on June 12, 2014.

Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, director of public affairs for UPF International office in DC, welcomed the audience of 70. She explained that the UN’s focus on family is in line with UPF’s focus on the parental role being invaluable in teaching the importance of love, life and lineage to children and establishing norms of behavior, loving relationships and knowledge within the family culture. “This can be either negative or positive impressions for children,” she added. She said, “No government or social organization has this exclusive role in raising children.” She asked the audience to express their appreciation to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles for raising them. She concluded with recognizing the creator, our Heavenly Parent, for creating the family into which we were born.

Larry Moffitt, vice president of The Washington Times Foundation, was introduced as the MC for the program. He said that a newspaper is a center of ideas, and the fact that the Washington Times provided the meeting space was proof that the company wishes to provide a venue for meetings to allow the development of those ideas.

Larry Moffitt introduced Mr. Tom McDevitt, Chairman of The Washington Times, “who presided over the Washington Times' transition from newspaper to news!” Mr. McDevitt welcomed the audience comprised of ambassadors and diplomats from Norway, Cambodia, the Bahamas, Afghanistan and Fiji as well as clergy, NGO leaders and friends of UPF. He said that the role of the family is essential in finding happiness in life. “All of us seek a soul-fulfilling happiness regardless of our station in life,” he said. He cited the American Declaration of Independence guiding the people with a vision of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He continued by saying that it is not an external thing but an internal condition especially experienced in a family of parents, a man and a woman, coming together to have a child. Children learn to be brothers and sisters in the family and thus develop relationship skills that will be used throughout their lives.

He mentioned that June 12 was the day, in 1972, that he decided to study the teachings of the founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon. “Regardless of wealth or nationality we can develop a family that transcends all things…our generation is being called on to build a better society by asking us to improve our own families, and extend it to the world,” he said.

He also spoke about the role of the media, which needs to improve itself. It needs to turn from the self-serving, “screeching sound bites” to a more responsible voice to promote the highest ideals. He said that the media must be free and self-governing and be the conscience of society in defending human rights.

He shared a quote that he keeps on his desk from a speech given by the founder at a World Media Association Conference:

"Therefore the media must stand at the very forefront in the defense of human dignity and freedom and the crusade against all forms of injustice. Doing this is the best possible way to ensure world peace. The media must lead in the fight against all forms of oppression. Furthermore, in the service of morality, the media must oppose corruption and racism and vindicate the unjustly accused. A moral media must lead the fight against drug abuse, pornography and many other destructive vices of our society. Thus, the media must become the conscience of society.”

The next speaker was the Ambassador of Norway Kare Aas (pronounced ‘Os’), who has a remarkable dedication to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and has held vital positions in government. He spoke on the value of having women in the workforce and family balance that exists in his nation of Norway, which was recognized as ‘the happiest country’ in 2013.

He said that Norway has worked to create gender equality as part of supporting the family but that it has great economic benefits beyond just being a good idea. In the 1970s the government decided it needed to include more women in the workforce and began making changes to the laws and policies. Norway is a welfare state that supports its citizens. Women were encouraged to work, which increased productivity and efficiency. But to do this they needed to accommodate families who want children and thus needed childcare. Sixty-five percent of women now work. The government created kindergartens and long parental leave policies to support the parents who wanted to both work and raise children, thus allowing both the mother and father to work together to raise their children. Parental leave is 14 weeks for both parents, thus allowing the father to help and bond with his children. Nine out of ten fathers do this. Both parents and children benefit from the father’s involvement and the longer leave. Three cabinet members took paternal leave. This practice allows mothers to go back to work later, which leads to growth, productivity and equality.

In 1981 Norway elected its first female prime minister. She later became the director general of WHO [World Health Organization]. Nine out of 18 ministers in government are women; “we have achieved parity!” he said. He said that this won’t change, because the prime minister decides who serves as ministers. He added that three percent of the GDP is used for welfare for families and incentives to work.

Norway was a poor nation after World War II, but now it is the second largest gas exporter in the world and the seventh largest oil exporter. It is a rich country now, he said, “but more money is produced by women working in the nation than oil and gas exporting.” There are still some ‘glass ceilings’ in private companies, but the Parliament decided that a minimum of 40 percent of either sex needs to be on the board of each company, he added. “There are real positive advantages in doing this,” he said.

In other countries, especially in conflict zones, women suffer greatly. Norway wants to help those countries rise and find stability. This can only be done with the inclusion of woman moving toward equality. One percent of Norway’s GDP is offered to other countries. “We need to, and desire to, give back to others; this is a Norwegian perspective,” he said.

“What has Norway learned from developing into a strong nation?” he asked. “Education, including higher education, is very important in the development of a country. Our taxes pay for everyone to receive a higher education,” he continued. Norway focused on world health issues in the past, but now global education is the emphasis of the government, and they are working with the US toward that goal, he concluded.

Consul General Paulette Adderley-Zonicle is the first female consul general appointed to Washington DC, by the Bahamian government in April 2013. She has a background in broadcasting in radio and television, insurance, is president of Ardyss, a marketing company and is the founding member of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. She was a senator in the ruling party of Bahamas for five years.

She spoke on the shifting makeup of households and the challenges it brings. Previously, a household was a husband and wife and their children; now households have a much broader makeup with different needs. She said we need “new approaches to help combat poverty, advance greater gender equality, ensure work-family balance, and promote intergenerational solidarity.”

Families are active catalysts of economic change and have contributed much to national and global development, she said. “As they rise so does the economy, and vice versa.” She spoke about the kind of quality time that parents wish to spend with their children. It is the informal activities in the family that are worthwhile to both children and parents and are “fun, edifying and educational,” she said. She said that all of the simple give and take within a family are opportunities to learn how to deal with problems. The focus is on the other person sharing thoughts and feelings. She said that people need to work together in order to live better. She believes that when a family or neighborhood experiences problems, “with Christ” they can find a new sense of purpose and continue on. She said, “We say, ‘no man, woman or family is an island,’ and Hilary Clinton popularized an African quotation, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”

“As a parent we must continually let our children know they are loved; they need to know they are loved unconditionally,” she said. A person learns to trust their parents and to be trusted in a family, and to be trusted to complete a task. “Parenting is a lesson - in progress,” she added. She said we all need to be aware that we are molding the leaders of the future. Her own mother didn’t go past the eighth grade in school, but she made sure that all 11 of her children went to school and came back to help a sibling go on to college. “Strong families are the building blocks of societies, hence a strong nation,” she concluded.

The following speaker was Mrs. Ernestine Allen, and a long-time Washingtonian who was named 2011 National Mother of the Year by American Mothers, an organization started by Eleanor Roosevelt which established Mother’s Day. Educated as a teacher, she taught for 25 years; now retired, she continues to substitute to help children and also serves as a HIV counselor. She and her husband of 45 years are elders at the Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Washington, DC. She established a Bereaved Parent Support Group after the death of her youngest son to help parents deal with grief.

She said she was born in North Carolina, the tenth of 18 children. She remembers the deep love of her parents that always provided "good food and decent clothes to wear." They loved all their nine boys and nine girls unconditionally. She said that “it has always been the responsibility of the parents to perpetuate the strength, goodness, wisdom, character and the faith in our entire family…” She said the first responsibility of the family is to make children feel safe and secure as they grow and to produce strong healthy children who fit in to society and become productive citizens. “Families do matter for the achievement of the development goals because they educate the children who will fulfill those goals,” she added. “Children cannot raise themselves. America is said to be ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’…the American family must continue to model the values we want them to live by,” she said.

Children learn more from what they see than what they hear, she said, so parents must be good examples all the time. Where ever she goes she urges families to “make a difference with what God have blessed you with!” She also said that we should help other families who “don’t have a clue how to raise responsible children.” We should reach out to others and help them strengthen their family, she added. She challenged everyone to help those ‘clueless’ parents and give them a clue!

The final speaker of the day was Ms. CeCe Cole, founder and editor-in-chief of Silke Endress, Lifestyle of the Lady magazine. She is also very successful working in finance and marketing and has conducted peer reviews for the Big 8 accounting firms and customized reports for the Securities and Exchange Commission. She has her own global marketing and advertising agency and is the founder of her own international ministry. She fights for education equality, women’s empowerment, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS.

She said she wanted to "grab your attention” to talk about the economic and intergenerational contributions of families to the UN's Millennium Development Goals. She said 50 years after US President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty, “the US is still not on a fair playing field for millions of hungry children and others suffering from poverty, homelessness, poor education and violence in the richest nation on earth.” She stated that five million more women than men are living below the poverty level. All these problems lead to the family breakdown and suffering for many Americans. But she has some "good news,” she said. "Through faith and an attitude of wonderful expectancy, God can lead you to understand your strengths. From her own personal difficult experience she discovered a five-step action plan":

  1. Faith - believe God is able to give you blessings and lead your family into prosperity.
  2. Peace - be a role model for others with warm smiles and unconditional love. Push beyond the fear and failure that burdens you.
  3. Unity - speak power into your children and family through integrity and respect.
  4. Advocate - contact your political leaders and voice your opinions on the social issues that impact your family. If they expect your vote, they should listen to you and act.
  5. Forgiveness - forgive yourself, it’s not your fault, move forward with honor and forgive others too. Your best days are ahead of you.

She encourages everyone to implement a thoughtful plan of action, “and your household will change because God has given you the power and the authority to take dominion…don’t be afraid to ‘rock the boat,’” she concluded.

A surprise guest, Ms. Lubana Al Quntar, an opera singer from Syria, was in the audience and offered a beautiful song, O Mio Bambino Caro, by Puccini. She is hailed as ‘the new Sheherazad.’ She studied at the Royal College of Music in London, Damascus High Institute of Music and the Maastricht Academy of Music in Holland.

The final portion of the program was the appointment of the new Ambassadors for Peace: Consul General Paulette Zonicle, Mrs. Ernestine Allen and Ms. CeCe Allen, who will join the ranks of thousands of like-minded people dedicated to creating a world of peace and harmony. A final "toast to peace" was shared by all.

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