Former Prime Minister and President of Israel Shimon Peres Addresses Colgate


Kelsey Soderberg, Maroon-News Staff

Marking the tenth global leader to arrive on Colgate’s campus, Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister and President of Israel, headlined this year’s Kerschner Family Series Global Leaders that featured an hour-long interview with ABC journalist Bob Woodruff ‘83.

Woodruff greeted the captive audience of over 4,000 students, parents, faculty and alumni, addressing the long and significant career of the Israeli leader that began even before Israel was officially recognized in 1948.

“Shimon Peres’ story is the story of Israel,” Woodruff said. 

While Woodruff asked a wide range of questions, he moved quickly into a discussion of the current conditions in the Middle East, including the dangerous presence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the existence of Iranian nuclear weapons and Israel’s difficulty in dealing with Gaza. 

The peace-oriented Peres recognizes the difficulty of combating modern terrorist regimes. He acknowledged that ISIS members are not simply joining due to the promise of monetary gain, but rather enticed by ISIS’s claim that they have all the world’s answers.

“We cannot face them just militarily. We have to fight the reasons, not just the people,” Peres said.  

Although Peres admitted that he wasn’t the best person to advise the American government about the nation’s future in Syria, he claimed that war is never the best answer when dealing with oppressive governments.

“Better a bank than a tank … financial sanctions can be more effective than military intervention,” Peres said. “I think America is right to make friends rather than enemies. You know, to make a friend is never as costly as to make an enemy.”

However, Peres admitted that over the course of his career in politics, the path to achieve peace has changed immensely, stating that there used to be two clean-cut sides to every conflict. 

With the emergence of modern technology and broad coalitions, there are hundreds of sides to every conflict, making the solutions even more difficult. 

Throughout the lecture, Peres spoke regarding many important issues that deal with the current state of the world. His comments about a changing world were linked to an emphasis on innovation and technology. 

“Land is no longer the provider of our life, it is science, high-tech, and that’s a totally different story … Armies can’t conquer knowledge and neither can they stop it. Science doesn’t have borders, there is nothing to defend,” Peres said.

When Woodruff brought up the controversial actions of Israel in the past few months, Peres explained that he does not regret the military force taken by his nation even if it caused Israel to lose the support of people around the world. 

Although Peres claimed that Israel would rather not bomb their Palestinian neighbors, he explained that there was simply no other option.

“It’s a dilemma, we don’t do it out of pleasure. We don’t consider the people of Gaza our enemies. We don’t want to see them suffer,” Peres said. 

Several people did not accept this sentiment that painted Peres as a friend to Palestine. After Peres received a standing ovation from the crowd, a critic yelled her disapproval about Israel’s ongoing expansion of new settlements on Palestinian land. Peres responded to her critique, but when the detractor cried out a second time, Peres cited the need for peaceful talks. 

“When you do not agree, don’t shoot and don’t shout,” Peres said.

A group of peaceful student protesters marched from the Health Center to the Parker Commons prior to the lecture, holding picket signs and passing out flyers. 

“The protest, made up of student activists, aimed at trying to promote the rights of Palestinians who have been forced out of their homes since Israel was founded, along with the fact that the Israeli President is still creating illegal settlements throughout Palestinian territory,” sophomore protester Dylan Frisbie said.

With the controversy surrounding Peres’s visit to campus, the 91 year-old made sure to switch gears and enlighten the audience with words of wisdom directed at Colgate students.

“What I want to say to every student: each of you, no matter where you come from, you possess more potential than you think. Much more than your parents think, teachers think and even you think,” Peres said. “But you have to invest in it; invest more in the future than the past. The past is dead and a series of mistakes, but the future is a rich opportunity.”

With a large population of Colgate students in the audience, many appreciated Peres’ targeting of a younger population.

“As a young person, I found Shimon Peres to be really helpful since he gave such sage words of wisdom that pertained to his experience while also handing out general life advice,” sophomore Blaise Desnoes said. 

Although Peres joked about not wanting to grow up even after his seven-decade career in the public spotlight, he gave the following advice to the Colgate audience so that they could stay as youthful as him.

“If you want to be young, I suggest that you count the number of achievements you’ve had and the number of dreams you have in your mind. If your number of dreams is greater than your number of accomplishments, you are still young,” Peres said.