The lights went dim and Orchestra Hall at Chicago’s Symphony Center fell silent. Pictures of rubble from Haitian cities came on screen–images of the horrific earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010.
As the film came to an end, there was no doubt as to why two-time Academy Award winner and humanitarian Sean Penn was awarded the 2012 Peace Summit Award Wednesday, the last day of the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
Udo Janz, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, introduced Penn by talking about Penn’s many achievements and J/P HRO, his Haitian relief organization. He called Penn a “doer” and an example to all. As Penn came out to accept his award, the audience gave him a standing ovation. Penn grew emotional during his speech, sharing stories about the Haitians he met, including a police officer who went to work directing traffic just after his family was killed in the horrific earthquake.
“So can we do? What can you do? Help guide the traffic…to peace,” said Penn, who said he was “humbled” by the honor.
Penn wasn’t the only attraction at the award ceremony that also featured a panel discussion; many in the audience came to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
“I am an East Asian Studies major and a minor in Human Rights. I am very interested in working with ethnic minorities in Western China and Tibetan populations, so I really wanted to see the Dalai Lama,” said Kimberly Wright, 23, student at the University of Chicago.