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Queen Noor Emphasizes Women's Education, Leadership Roles

A Jordanian Queen brought her message of leadership and women's roles to the sixth annual Judson University World Leaders Forum presented Monday in Elgin.

Queen Noor-al-Hussein -- who was born in the United States -- is best known for humanitarian work, particularly through the Noor and King Hussein foundations.  Her projects range from micro finance and youth empowerment to the dismantling of nuclear weapons. 

For the forum, Queen Noor discussed these subjects in the context of leadership: “Leadership as service, as a sense of mission, a connection to something greater than yourself.” 

She placed particular emphasis on women’s education, as well as the need to see them as agents of economic potential rather than recipients of charity.  By developing this potential with women and youth, Noor says, it's possible to bridge local divisions and make a difference. 

“No matter where we live -- no matter what our socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, or other differences -- we all aspire to lives of dignity and opportunity, a meaningful horizon of possibility,” she says, "if not in the short term for ourselves, at least for our children and coming generations.”

Queen Noor, 64, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of a deputy assistant secretary in the Defense Department and the granddaughter of a Syrian immigrant. She became the fourth wife of Jordan's King Hussein in 1978 and served as his queen consort until his death in 1999.

She is the president of the United World Colleges movement and an advocate of the anti-nuclear weapons proliferation campaign Global Zero. Last year, Queen Noor received the Woodrow Wilson Awardfor her public service

The queen delivered her message to some 450 people crowded into Judson University’s Herrick Chapel. University President Gene Crume says the World Leaders Forum was the brainchild of former trustee Kevin Noe. 

Judson University President Dr. Gene Crume

“Kevin had the vision that we could bring global leaders to campus and Elgin and provide that experience to our students,” Crume said.

Past speakers have included former Soviet Union Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and even former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.  This year, however, Crume chose a different type of speaker in selecting Queen Noor.  

“We wanted to take someone who maybe did not have as much of a political role or a policy role, but who was involved in policy from a global scale,” he says, "and certainly Her Majesty fits the bill for that.”

While Queen Noor was the star of the show, she wasn’t the only active participant.  Countless Judson University students acted as ushers, planners, and guides.  Volunteer Faith Gazdzicki says the work helped her appreciate what goes into these forums.

Judson student and World Leaders Scholar Faith Gazdzicki

"I’m updating reports to show who’s coming to the event. I’m calling people to talk to them about their tickets," she explains.  "I’m doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that people don’t realize goes into the events and certainly I didn’t realize goes into the events until I was a part of it."

Gazdzicki also is one of eight World Leaders Scholars, a group that takes classes on entrepreneurship and leadership in addition to their regular major.  She has grown to appreciate the variety of forum speakers. 

“Each of the world leaders forum speakers has brought something different.  They each have different passions and stories to tell," she says. "Just being able to listen to those stories has just been such a privilege and an honor for me.”

Crume says these forums also attract individuals from beyond Elgin.  He describes a group of Mexicans who came to thank President Felipe Calderon personally during last year's event. 

“During his administration there was a significant drought," Crume says, "and his administration helped provide the funds to match funds they had raised here in Elgin to help dig a well in that community."

Overall, the reception for Queen Noor -- and the forum as a whole -- was quite positive.  Judson Senior Kira Spears says it was refreshing to hear the Queen’s perspective, particularly as it ties into her academics. 

“One of our hot topics that we discussed is immigration and how we as individuals can help contribute to finding solutions and making things work, to help people," Spears says. "It was really interesting, while being in this course, to hear from Queen Noor about some of these things.”

And that’s the kind of interest Crume wants to bring to Elgin in years to come.