DENVER – Archbishop Desmond Tutu looked across a sea of cheering teenagers from around the globe Sunday, and told them not that only can they change the world, but they must.
"I look at you, and I am in awe," he said on the final day of an international call for peace and action called PeaceJam. "You are the ones who are going to make this a better world."
The Archbishop, a 1984 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was one of 10 Nobel laureates to address the 3,000 young people gathered from 31 countries for the 10th anniversary of the PeaceJam movement at the University of Denver. Over the three-day run, laureates urged the world's youth to not just yearn for peace, but to take action.
"The fact of the matter is, Nobel laureates don't come floating down from Heaven," Tutu said Sunday. "There was a time when we were very much like you."
From writing letters urging the United Nations to push the government of Myanmar to change, to calling for an end to political imprisonment worldwide, the laureates not only encouraged but demanded the assembled youth to answer the call.
"You come here and you say 'I will make a difference. I care about poverty. I care about war,"' Tutu said. "And all of you are peacemakers. We are opposed to war. We stand for peace."
After his speech, Tutu called on participants to come up on stage and recite something that inspires them.
Lway Cherry, 23, from Myanmar (also known as Burma), drew a huge crowd announcing the United Nations is on the verge of investigating the oppressive regime in her country.
"I want to thank you, Archbishop Tutu," she said, before turning to him and receiving a hug.
Neil Robinson, an administrator from the Westmount Charter School in Calgary, Canada, said he brought 31 inspired students with him to the event, and there were more who wanted to come.
"They are so passionate, they are so inspired," he said. "It's up to us to channel all that."
Tutu told the crowd not to be overwhelmed by the scope of the world's problems. Even the smallest acts pay big dividends, he said.
"You feed one child, you feed two children, that's important. That's how you make a difference," he said. "You make a difference where you are."
PeaceJam, founded in 1966 in Arvada, Colorado, by Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff, is a global program promoting peace through education and encouragement of the world's youth. The weekend summit of youth and Nobel laureates launches a 10-year call for action to end war and inequality.
On the final day, after a series of news conferences, panel discussions, direct interaction between laureates and participating teens, the couple said they were exhausted, but exhilarated.
"Three-thousand kids from 31 countries answering the Nobel laureates' call to action is what I've dreamed about for 10 years," Suvanjieff said. "And it just happened."
Engle said the event just seemed destined to come together.
"You know, PeaceJam is held together with duct tape and Band Aids because we never have any money," Engle said. "But things kept coming together, all weekend long, at just the right time. It's just been like that."