Lessons from Jehan Sadat

Jehan Sadat, widow of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat--assassinated nearly 22 years ago as she stood at his side--spoke at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on April 22 as part of the "Unique Lives and Experiences" series.

Now a professor at the University of Maryland College Park, which has the Sadat Chair for Development and Peace, Dr. Sadat detailed her fights against poverty, illiteracy, and intolerance, and her efforts in behalf of women's rights.

"I myself was a victim of terrorism," she reminded a packed audience, referring to her husband's assassination. "I too hunger for justice."

But the kind of justice she hungers for is not violence. Like her husband, she hungers for peace. "The only way for decent people to navigate," she said, "is to be guided by nothing but our moral beliefs. This principle must remain above politics....Violence will never resolve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict."

In these troubled times, she admitted she feels "helpless and almost hopeless," but added, "I draw my inspiration from a man I knew and loved, Anwar Sadat," who was a negotiator and signor of the Camp David peace accords. "The day Sadat went to Israel [to begin negotiations], people begged him not to go," she recalled. "He was believing in what he was doing. He was aware of the price he would pay. He thought of the future, of the next generation. He embraced Begin in the name of peace. My husband's word to Israel's parliament were, 'I have chosen to come to you with an open heart and open mind.' The same path to peace would work today."

Jehan Sadat called for "a sincere exercise of compromise and forgiveness, which are inherent in Islam, Christianity and Judaism."

The crowd enthusiastically responded to Jehan Sadat's moving message.

There were thousands there at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall that day. Thousands of women.

We wholeheartedly endorse the message of Jehan Sadat, and publish it here in the hope that men as well as women will heed it.

And we are watching the world scene anxiously, hoping to identify some leader who has the courage and vision of Anwar Sadat, who can negotiate a peaceful way out of this Middle East madness.

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This story was published on May 2, 2002.