In yet another indication that UNT Dallas is emerging not only as a player locally, but is also reaching well beyond our city's limits, was Thursday's appearance by Ambassador Narjess Saidane, the Permanent Observer for the International Organization of La Francophonie to the United Nations as the keynote speaker at our Stewart Speaker Series.

Ambassador Saidane traveled from New York and spoke in front of capacity audiences at UNT Dallas College of Law during a breakfast session, and on the main campus during a luncheon in Founders Hall, that culminated with an insightful panel discussion moderated by President Bob Mong and included Ambassador Saidane, along with Amy Lewis Hofland, the Executive Director of the Crow Collection of Asian Art, and Dr. Jacqui Stephens, Vice President of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.

"I am very grateful for this opportunity to discover the ambitions and actions taking shape in Dallas, a welcoming city for migrants and refugees, and an innovative university turning mindfulness into a powerful tool for education," Ambassador Saidane said.

On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ambassador Saidane spoke about asserting human dignity with mindfulness and gratitude. She noted that as much of the world grapples with mass migration issues because of war and strife in multiple regions, countries must remain committed to ensure human rights to citizens, refugees and migrants alike.

Prior to introducing the panel, President Mong said he views events taking shape around the world in the realm of cynicism vs. hope, and that he feels a "strong sense of hopefulness about where the world can go." 

And such was the theme of the day: hope, cooperation among peoples and nations, and understanding despite our differences.

The mission of La Francophonie includes the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights; and to support education, training, higher education and research with the objective of establishing and developing democracy, and finding resolution to conflict and support for the rule of law and human rights, particularly in the countries of the French-speaking world. A French-Tunisian national, Ambassador Saidane has spent a large part of her career in United Nations agencies such as UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where she was most recently serving as Deputy Special Representative in the Jerusalem-based Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People.

The Stewart Speaker Series honors the late Peter Stewart, an iconic figure in Dallas and internationally. The lead visionary of one of Dallas’ most well-known downtown landmarks, Thanks-Giving Square, and a dedicated supporter of UNT Dallas, Stewart passed away on Jan. 11, 2018, at age 97.