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2016 Essay Contest Biographical Sketches

H. M.

I am of Pakistani-American descent and have visited Pakistan a number of times. Currently, I work in a dynamic role as Project Manager for Veevers Associates, an Independent Health Care Consulting Company in which I do grant writing, research, and project management. My interests and skills have always been directed towards working and contributing to better society, for instance by helping to provide essential resources to individuals and communities at risk for exploitation and poverty. Collectively, each individual can make an empowering difference, and this is why we are all here today.

Drew Morgan

I am a 14 year old (as of today), white male born and raised in North Florida. Writing for me has been difficult at times due to dyslexia. It has only been recently that I discovered a way of writing that speaks to people. Through writing I have now found my voice. Being raised in a family that encourages me to learn and respect all religions and people is why this opportunity to speak about unlimited love means so much to me. It is my hope that through events like these we can all learn to get along as community.

Beatriz Lopes

Beatriz Lopez is a 17 year old girl currently living in New York, but is originally from Brazil. Beatriz is going into her senior year and hopes to major in mathematics in college next year. She has grown up involved in the international tradition known as Spiritism. Her involvement in Spiritism, the lessons she has learned and the people she has met, are what shape her into the wonderful person she is today. Beatriz is the host of Kardec Radio for Teens, a radio show on itunes where teens can talk and learn with other teens, always finding the positivity in life. Beatriz hopes to always spread peace and love wherever she goes for the rest of her life.

Leora Eisenberg

Leora Eisenberg is 17 years old, and is beginning Princeton University in the fall. She hopes to major in Near East Studies, her big passion and biggest passion in life. She loves learning languages, and speaks English, Russian, Hebrew, French, German, Yiddish, and Somali and uses these languages to communicate with people of all religions and cultures. She is a practicing Jew, and brings her tradition and belief into all that she does — hopefully peace in the Middle East! She loves to write and has been featured in publications like the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Daily Forward, Minnesota Public Radio and more.

Nguyen Dinh Nguyen

My name is Nguyen Nguyen. Some people like to call me win-win. I am originally from Vietnam and currently in the US for college. Troy, Alabama may not be the very best environment for a liberal-in-the-closet, but overcoming differences, finding the common ground with the people here and becoming great friends with them has proved to be a wonderful experience for me to learn from different perspectives and co-exist with others. I am studying Communication and Graphic Design (because I love to draw and create stuff), and I secretly discreetly want to become a comic artist, one who tells stories with pictures and binds people together with humor and a good tale. My fear for the world is also my fear for myself: that we are tempted to choose to do the easy thing rather than the right thing, that we may feel like others’ mishap has nothing to do with ourselves, and that we do not need to try to understand people different from ourselves. That is a dull life.

Maria Paula Cervera Gonzalez

My name is Maria Paula Cervera Gonzalez, I am from Colombia, Bogota. I am currently studying Psychology, this career has really opened my mind and vision about human behavior in the context of religion and way of thinking. I use a lot in my daily life the values that I have been taught, but with more depth, and also handling much positivism, not only as a way to think but to act. And as a human being I am very committed to sharing these values and help others, especially young people to develop those values and qualities they not yet know they are there. As a personal interest I love to read, and someday I would write a book. My fear is that young people have still not know that there is another way, a better one. And my hope is that through each one of us can help even a person not derail the true path.

Natalie Poonam Phagu

My name is Natalie Poonam Phagu. I am a graduate of Stony Brook University with degrees in Biology and Bioethics and I am currently applying to medical school. I was born in New York but my family is from Guyana. My father is a Hindu priest so I was raised in the Hindu tradition. I was moved to write about the need for increased tolerance and respect towards Muslims in our country after witnessing the hardships faced by my own Muslim friends and relatives. My greatest fear is seeing religion, race, and other differences amongst us cause violence and death. While this is unfortunately occurring today, my greatest hope is that we can come to understand and embrace our differences to create lasting peace.

Sunday T. Ogbaga

I was born in U.S. but I am of recent Nigerian heritage because my parents immigrated to the U.S. I was raised as a Christian believer. I see an admirable purpose in my fellow Nigerian Sunday T. Ogbaga’s essay and I am delighted to help carry it out. My greatest fear for the future of this world is that although differences are a fundamental aspect of life, differences almost always can lead to dispute just as much as it can lead to unity. My greatest hope is that one day society can reach an understanding of our role in this world that doesn’t require hatred or isolation based on differences. I am currently a medical student at Stony Brook University.

Yasmeen Azam

Yasmeen Azam was born and raised in in Los Angeles, California, and is of Jordanian descent, the daughter of immigrant parents who came to America in search of a better life. She is passionate about world affairs, and currently studies International Relations with double minors in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies. Yasmeen hopes to devote her life to serving others through the avenue of human rights. She is passionate about working to empower the Muslim community through youth development programs, civil rights training, and spiritual rejuvenation workshops. She is, and perhaps this is the coolest thing about her, part of a quadruplet! Yes that’s right! And has younger twin siblings! She recognizes that authenticity stems from a selfless commitment to serving others. She envisions a world free of greed, hate, corruption, and intolerance.

Tenging Lama

I was born in Nepal, and moved to the United States when I was fourteen. At Stony Brook University, I completed his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, and this fall, will start the MA program in Medical Humanities. During weeknights, I work as a residential counselor at YAI, looking after individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through this experience, I hope to develop even more patience and compassion for others, especially those in need of help. Part of this sentiment comes from my roots in Buddhism, which emphasizes not only contemplation, but also direct action. Throughout my life, I have always been a minority in ethnicity, religion, and social hierarchy. My deepest fear is seeing the rights of a minority group being revoked, and the law strictly favoring one group over another, such as the Apartheid and the Jim Crow laws. In the future, I hope to see people acknowledging brotherhood beyond their race, religion, or color, and having considerations for all sentient beings.

Keynote Speakers and Performers

Stephen G. Post, Ph.D.

Stephen G. Post is Founder and President of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love: Spirituality, Compassion, Service, a free-standing 501 c3 devoted to research, education, and global cultural transformation. In its sixteen years of existence, with initial guidance and support from the investor Sir John Templeton, the Institute has collaborated with more than 80 entities including the John Templeton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the University of Pennsylvania, Emory University, the Brahma Kumaris, Oxford University, the Dalai Lama Center, the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies in Bangalore, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, and the Chautauqua Institution. The Institute is consistently inter-spiritual, focusing on the perennial core of all great spiritual and religious traditions—compassion and love for all people without exception. The Institute has supported scientific research at more than 60 locations from Princeton University to Stanford focused consistently on the following seven questions:

  1. Does the unselfish love of others contribute to the happiness, health and resilience of those who give it?
  2. How does such love prevent illness and contribute to the art of healing?
  3. How can parents and communities raise children who flourish in love for all humanity?
  4. How can more people feel called to their work as a form of creative love?
  5. What do people mean when they report a spiritual experience of Unlimited Love?
  6. Do physics and mathematics point to an “Ultimate Reality” or Ground of Being that underlies visible reality and the universe?
  7. How can the major religions and spiritualities of the world come to abide in their concepts of Unlimited Love, and truly practice love for all humanity (and all sentient creatures).

Dr. Post completed his doctoral studies on the theme of altruistic love in the world religions and psychology at the University of Chicago in 1983. He is a best-selling author who has taught at the University of Chicago Medical School, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (1988-2008), and Stony Brook University School of Medicine (2008-), where he is Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics. He is an elected member of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Royal Society of Medicine, London. Post addressed the U.S. Congress on volunteerism and public health, and received the Congressional Certificate of Special Recognition for Outstanding Achievement.

Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.

Theologian, pastor and civic leader, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. is one of America’s most influential leaders. In 2008, Reverend Moss retired from Olivet Institutional Baptist Church located in Cleveland, Ohio, following thirty-three years of distinguished service. He served earlier as co-pastor with Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Moss served as Chairman of the Morehouse College Board of Trustees for over ten years. He served as board member and Regional Director of the SCLC during Dr. King’s tenure as founding president. Rev. Moss served as special advisor to former President Carter at Camp David. In 1994 he was a special guest of President Clinton at the Peace Treaty signing between Israel and Jordan. He served as President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Council. Rev. Moss was inducted into the 2007 Class of the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, and was twice named by Ebony Magazine as one of America’s Greatest Black Preachers. He holds eight honorary degrees. Morehouse College named their newest dormitory suites in honor of Rev. Moss. In 2007 Rev. Moss’s footprints were implanted in the International Walk of Fame in Atlanta in the M.L.K. Jr. Historic District. In 2012 Rev. Moss was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He is widely identified by Oprah Winfrey as her spiritual mentor. Rev. Moss is married to Mrs. Edina Hudson Moss, and they together are the grandparents of five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Alisha H.L. al-Adawiya

Aisha H.L. al-Adawiya is the founder of Women in Islam, Inc., an organization of Muslim women which focuses on human rights and social justice. Ms. al-Adawiya organizes and participates in conferences, symposia and other forums on Islam, Gender Equity, Conflict Resolution, Cross-Cultural Understanding, and Peace Building. She also represents Muslim women’s Non-Governmental Organizations at United Nations forums. Ms. Al-Adawiya coordinates Islamic input for the Preservation of the Black Religious Heritage Documentation Project of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She also serves as a consultant to numerous interfaith organizations and documentary projects on the Muslim American experience. Additionally, she serves on the boards of numerous organizations related to the interests of the global Islamic community.

Luis Mora, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Luis Mora has more than 20 years of experience in the area of cooperation for development, women’s and reproductive rights and gender equality in different UN Agencies and diverse geographical and cultural settings. He Joined UNFPA in 2000 and served as Deputy Regional Director for the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office (LACRO) from 2008 to 2012 and as Senior Programme Adviser for the Latin America and the Caribbean Division (LACD) from 2007 to 2008. While in these functions, he was the focal point for the LAC Business Plan and Reorganization Process (2008-2009), the design and implementation of the LAC Regional Programme Action Plan (2008-2011), the development of the Technical Assistance Platform and the oversight of the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean Countries (EDSCC). He also coordinated the Spain/LACRO Cooperation Fund on Reproductive Rights, Gender Equality and Cultural Diversity from 2008 to 2012. As of September 2012, Luis performs as Chief, Gender, Human Rights and Culture Branch at the Technical Division. Prior to joining UNFPA, he held different positions as Gender Specialist for the UNDP/UNIFEM Global Initiative for Gender Mainstreaming in the United Nations System, and Chief of the Information and Communications Unit at the UNDP Office in Haiti. Luis also brings an extensive experience as researcher and university professor, having coordinated the Postgraduate Course on Politics, Economics and Culture of Sub Saharan Africa at the Institute for Cooperation and Development and having taught on Gender and Masculinities at the Master on Women’s Studies at the Institute for International Affairs of the Madrid’s Complutense University in Spain.

Joanna Kaczorowska, Ph.D.

Acclaimed as an enormously accomplished violinist, Joanna Kaczorowska’s playing features uncommon refinement, passionate expression and tonal sensitivity. Her artistry combines rare talent with ferocious enthusiasm. Joanna has an irrepressible passion for musical experimentation and discovery. In both classical and contemporary repertoire and world music traditions, Joanna has an ability to express herself in the deepest personal sense through her music. Dr. Joanna Kaczorowska, a native of Poland, is an internationally acclaimed violinist who has performed with today’s leading artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, members of the Emerson String Quartet, Michael Tilson Thomas, Reinbert De Leeuw, David Robertson, and as a guest member of the New World Symphony. She has performed at many of the great concert halls across the globe such as Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Beethoven’s Haus in Bonn and at many music festivals including Music at Menlo Festival, Aspen Music Festival and Tanglewood Music Festival. Dr. Kaczorowska is the founder and Artistic Director of New York Chamber Musicians, a brand new, innovative, chamber music series that breaks with the old traditional concert setting creating intimate experiences for both artists and audience while raising funds for charitable causes through its concerts.

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This is a project of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.