Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev talked about the importance of international institutions in diffusing crises at American University’s Bender Arena Tuesday night.
The last leader of what former President Ronald Reagan once called the “evil empire” addressed more than 3,500 American students and faculty in Russian, which was translated into English.
During his 45-minute address, Gorbachev said threats and challenges would always confront world powers but warned that the international rift over the Iraq war will make it impossible to resolve future conflicts.
“Recently it has become clear that the structure of the world is being tested, particularly with the mid-Eastern crisis,” he said. “Sometimes it seems that the bandwagon of nuclear arms cannot be stopped, but the challenge that is faced by my generation of political leaders is a lack of dialogue.”
He also said countries must recognize and accept the cultural differences between nations.
“We must look at the challenges of the world while taking into account the complexity of diversity,” he said. “You can’t reform diversity, and we have to stop trying to ignore it.”
Gorbachev, who is renowned for improving the Soviet Union’s relationship with the United States during his tenure from 1985 to 1991, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his help in easing East-West tensions at the end of the Cold War.
Since leaving office, Gorbachev has founded several organizations dedicated to finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts.
On Tuesday, Gorbachev quoted former President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech at American, made in support of international unity, saying that “no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
“John F. Kennedy represents the importance for us to continue what he started with international institutions,” Gorbachev said. “Let us learn the lessons from our mistakes and draw conclusions. We have to use those mechanisms to (come together) rather than remain divided.”
He lamented the division of humanity through suicide bombings and other terrorist acts.
“Violence, particularly in the form of terrorism, is destroying international politics,” he said. “As a result, many people look pessimistically at the world, and this could serve as a disservice when we are trying to work toward a new world.
“I am talking about (obtaining) genuine peace; the kind that makes life worth living, not merely for Americans, but for all men and women,” Gorbachev continued.
American students hailed Gorbachev as a peacemaker whose ideas can positively influence the weakened state of international relations.
“If everyone could overcome their resentments and listen to the messages of people like Gorbachev, then the restoration of the United Nations and the reconstruction of Iraq would occur so much more quickly,” American freshman Becky McBride said.