Sir Roger Moore and Jordan’s Princess Badiya Speak at Oxonian Society
Sir Roger Moore and Her Royal Highness Princess Badiya of Jordan electrified the crowd at the Oxonian Society’s annual black tie gala last month, offering a packed audience at the Princeton Club very personal insights into the global child health crisis and the relationship between Islam and terrorism.
Founded just after 9/11 as a means of stimulating provocative discussion and debate with the world’s most interesting intellects , the nonprofit Oxonian Society lived up to its high standards. Keynote speaker Sir Roger Moore, famous for being the longest running James Bond character (his urbane and dashing 007 portrayal complemented a 60 year career in film, TV, and theater), chose to speak about his 15 year service as Honorary Ambassador for UNICEF, a cause that his dear friend, the late Audrey Hepburn, had encouraged him to embrace. Armed with statistics (“40,000 children a day die of preventable causes”), Moore explained that he had “put faces and names on the numbers,” traveling worldwide to view firsthand the tragic consequences of unclean water, poverty, and the lack of education on innocent youngsters. In Salvador, “I was not prepared to see children whose limbs had been blown off by land mines…One baby was dying of malnutrition. The doctor said if they’d reached her one week before they could have saved her,” Moore recounted to a hushed audience.
Yet in counterpoint to the children’s suffering, Moore also highlighted the generosity of many benefactors who have listened to his appeals and responded with charity and compassion. A cardiologist in Manhattan, who several years ago installed a pacemaker in Moore after he collapsed while appearing in “The Play What I Wrote,” presented him with a $10,000 check for UNICEF instead of a bill. British Airways, for whom Moore has been a spokesman since 2004, has raised $43 million for UNICEF as part of its “Change for Good” campaign (Moore has been known to jump up during their flights to make impassioned pleas for donations.) “Tender care of human beings will never become obsolete,” summed up Moore, quoting a passage that Audrey Hepburn read to her loved ones from her bedside in her final days: “Never throw out anybody… Remember, if you need a helping hand, you’ll find it at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you’ll find that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and one for helping others.”
Her Royal Highness Princess Badiya of Jordan chose to speak on the more controversial but equally timely subject of Islam, posing the question: Should the religion of Islam be blamed for the increase in Islamic terrorism? Acknowledging that “the feeling about Islam in the western world is not positive” and that “there is a growing feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them,’” the Oxford-educated Princess Badiya, one of the co-founders of the Oxonian Society, countered that the doctrine of Islam counsels respect and peace with other faiths as well as an embracing of diversity. Noting that there are sane, civilized and educated people as well as their polar opposites from all religions and cultures, Her Royal Highness urged that “the latter group must not be allowed to bully the former…We must shore up the middle ground or we’ll all be lost to division and polarization,” she exhorted. Princess Badiya left the audience with a call for a multi-lateral response to terrorism: “We need to promote democracy between states, not just within, and work together to face global problems.” Her Royal Highness called for multilateral cooperation and a greater investment in people (schools, housing, propsects etc) rather than the current over emphasis on beefing up the military and intelligence capabilities. Investing in people is morally more palatable than military attacks, and more effective (as it strips terrorists of their recruiting grounds) and is cheaper.
Following its annual gala event, the Oxonian Society is not resting on its laurels. Among the glittering array of upcoming speakers are actress Mia Farrow, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, Dutchess of York Sarah Ferguson, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. The Society offers a special rate for teachers and students. More information can be obtained by logging onto their website at www.oxoniansociety.com.