Maya Soetoro-Ng, assistant faculty specialist at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and also the half sister of President Barack Obama, was the keynote speaker at Sacramento State University Thursday evening.
Soetoro-Ng, who has a Ph.D. in international comparative education, has a marked interest in the education of children and teaching them the power of peace while they are very young.
She bases her theories of peace on the ‘four C’s’ which are “compassion, critical thinking, communication, and curiosity.”
Soetoro-Ng asked the audience, “What is your definition of peace?”
American River College student Stacey Martinez said, “I really appreciated how she asked us what we thought peace was because this means she doesn’t think that her definition is the only definition.”
Loud chatter filled the air while she called on random audience members.
Martinez answered, “You have the ability to evolve as a person without putting other people down.”
Soetoro-Ng said that “leadership will build peaceful environment by implanting seeds of encouragement in young children.”
She credited her mother for teaching her that humans are extraordinary.
This helped implement in her mind that “every culture and faith has something great to share,” said Soetoro-Ng.
Even though the event was hosted at Sacramento State, many students from ARC came to see Soetoro-Ng speak.
“Her ideas about peace can make a real change if more people knew about them,” said Martinez.
American River College student Alyssa Gomez said, “Maya is a really eloquent speaker just like her brother (President Obama).”
One of the most interesting segments of the speech was Soetoro-Ng explaining that instead of constantly trying to argue an opinion, one should be able to debate both sides of an argument.
“Draw a new understanding that pulls from both sides,” said Soetoro-Ng.
She told the audience that it’s very important to watch multiple news outlets, saying “I watch television that is less than flattering to people I love, but it’s my job.”
According to Soetoro-Ng “this is important” because with multiple news organizations giving different perspectives on current events “we’ve created a biased nation.”
American River College student Ashley Smith said “I really wish I could’ve talked to (Soetoro-Ng) because to be honest I came here to hear stories about (President) Obama but I still loved her speech.”
Smith said Soetoro-Ng’s small anecdotes about Indonesia and “instilling peace into children” were her favorite moments of the speech.
Daniel Kazanjian, a Sacramento State alum, came to hear Soetoro-Ng’s speech because “passionate women are the future.”
The speech was extremely well received and Dr. Boatamo Musupyoe of Sacramento State said that Soetoro-Ng is “welcomed back anytime.”