Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman Breaks the Ice with Republic of Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman recently welcomed the President of the Republic of Iceland to the ivy halls of Columbia University as part of the Columbia University World Leaders Forum, created to examine global challenges and explore cultural perspectives. Professor John P. Allegrante, Chair of the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University moderated the lively audience question and answer session following President Grimsson’s keynote address. President Fuhrman is founding director and chair of the Management Committee of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education and has published widely on education policy and finance. Under her leadership, working partnerships have expanded beyond the borders of Morningside Heights to India, Jordan, Dominican Republic and Iceland.
Professor Allegrante, a Fulbright scholar in Iceland in 2007, was recently appointed to the Advisory Board of Reykjavik University where he also holds a visiting professorship and has developed a program of collaborative research on the links between health and academic achievement and threats to child and adolescent health.
President Grimsson is the fifth president of the republic of Iceland and became the first professor of political science at the University of Iceland. He plays an active international role in promoting renewable energy and climate change. As President Fuhrman noted, Iceland has the oldest parliament in the world, established in 936.
Grimsson spoke about the importance of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. “Ninety percent of Iceland’s power”, he said “is derived from hydroelectric power and geothermal energy.” Although Iceland is a small country, he is quick to point out that the cradle of democracy was in Athens and Rome with populations the size of Iceland.
“We are an outstanding example of how a small country can achieve great things. Iceland can serve as an inspiration for climate change through transformation of energy systems. When I was a boy,” he continued, “oil and coal supplied 80 percent of the energy of our country. We used only fossil fuels. Now geothermal and hydroelectric power provide 100 percent of our energy. If we can do it, so can others!”
“We depend on intellectual capital in institutions of learning. Everyone has a right to have a university education; young people are being sent to all parts of the world and bring back the latest knowledge.”
On a forceful, positive note, Grimsson summed up with advice that ocean resources should be harvested in a usable way and that the emerging debate about climate change and rising sea levels would ultimately provide solutions. To the resounding applause of hundreds in the audience, Grimsson concluded with “what matters is ideas and courage, that the success of our global journey is the ability to act where others are silent.”#