University News

WIU Theme Speakers Series

September 4, 2012

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Haider Hamza, an Iraqi journalist, scholar and activist, will discuss his journey across the U.S. to understand what the American people felt about the invasion of his country as part of the Western Illinois University Theme Speakers Series. The 2012-2013 Universitywide theme is "War and Peace: From Personal Conflict to Global Resolution."

Hamza will speak at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 12 in the University Union Heritage Room on the WIU-Macomb campus. The presentation is open free to the public.

Hamza lived through the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of his country with his family near Babylon, south of Baghdad. Born in Germany, he lived in East Africa and Europe until age 12 when his family moved to Baghdad. As a teen Hamza worked with the Iraqi Ministry of Information, and in 2003, he joined the mainstream media. At the age of 19, he worked as a television producer and photo editor for some of the world's largest news agencies, including Reuters and ABC News. In 2007, he won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the U.S. where he obtained a master's degree. He currently works for the Soros Foundation, coordinating programs for youth in the Middle East and North Africa.

His lecture will include visuals of daily life in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion, the presence and challenges U.S. troops face there, his personal struggle and the high loss war causes. Committed to helping Iraqi widows and orphans, through his family and friends, Hamza gives half of his earnings as a speaker to those in urgent and imminent need.

The next scheduled speaker is Arun Gandhi, grandson of the legendary peacemaker and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi. He will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15 in the Union Grand Ballroom and at noon Tuesday, Oct. 16 in Room 111 at the WIU-Quad Cities Riverfront Campus.

A peace activist and proponent of nonviolence, Gandhi carries the same principles as his grandfather. Growing up in apartheid South Africa meant racial confrontations with both blacks and whites. Plotting to avenge his tormentors, Gandhi subscribed to Charles Atlas bodybuilding magazines so he would have the strength to fight back. When his parents discovered their son's fascination with exercise, they decided that a visit to his grandfather in India was in order. The next 18 months of Arun Gandhi's life gave him the keys to the powerful philosophy of nonviolence and shaped his future. After leading successful projects for economic and social reform in India, Gandhi came to the United States in 1987 to complete research for a study on racism in America. In 1991, Gandhi and his late wife, Sunanda, founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which is headquartered at the University of Rochester.

The mission of the institute is to foster an understanding of nonviolence and how to put that philosophy to practical use through workshops, lectures and community outreach programs.

Spring 2013 speakers include Peter Bergen, a journalist who is one of the few Westerners to interview Osama bin Laden (Feb. 19); and Joseph Sebarenzi, former head of the Rwanda Parliament and a survivor of genocide (April 2).

For more information about the University Theme Speaker Series, contact coordinators Michelle Janisz at, Heather McIlvaine-Newsad at or Cynthia B Struthers at

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