By Hairyung Sung, Rotary Peace Fellow 2013-15 at Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
This June, I attended the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, as a Peace Fellow alumnus, and was also able to take part in both the Peace Assembly and the Presidential Peace Conference. On 8 June, some 90 current and former Peace Fellows from around the world came together for an open discussion entitled “Stories Sustain Peace,” and reflected on the day’s experiences. All of us were in absolute agreement that resolving conflict and promoting peace were long-term endeavors, and we encouraged each other to take whatever action we could.
At a reception at the Carter Center that evening, records and photographs from Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s visit to North Korea in June 1994 caught my attention. During that trip, Carter opened face-to-face dialogue with Kim Il Sung and successfully negotiated a new treaty between the U.S. and North Korea. As an aspiring Peace Fellow applicant, I had resolved to contribute to the peaceful reunification of Korea, the only remaining divided nation in the world. Seeing images that vividly brought to mind our country’s history helped to reaffirm my commitment.
I enjoyed the Presidential Peace Conference, and then stayed on for the rest of the convention. While exploring the House of Friendship, I ran into a couple of friendly faces I hadn’t seen in nine years: Terry N. Philips, who had served as chair of RI’s Rotaract Committee in 2007-08 when I served on the committee, and his spouse Anne. I had formed a particular bond with them during their visit to Korea for the 2009 Interota event, when I guided them around Seoul.
Both Arch Klumph Society members, Terry and Anne led me to a special booth celebrating The Rotary Foundation’s centennial. We created some unforgettable memories there, taking photos with Arch Klumph’s grandchildren Rory and Maeve and having them sign my copy of the centennial book.
I was also invited to a breakfast event for Korean attendees, where I had a chance to reconnect with Rotarian sponsors from my home country. In attendance were members from District 3640, including governor Yong-Myung Choi, who have continuously given me both material and moral support since my time as a Peace Fellow; and from Districts 3600, 3650, and 3750, which are sponsoring my global grant scholarship. Seeing them in Atlanta left me at once thrilled and moved.
Having attended the 2005 Convention in Chicago, and now the 2017 Atlanta Convention, I’ve had the good fortune to be there for the centennials of both Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation. I am that much more determined to become an outstanding Rotarian and future leader, and do my part in making the world a happier, more peaceful place.
Learn more about Rotary’s Peace Centers and learn what to expect at the 2018 Rotary Convention in Toronto.