Pearl speaks to campus

By Tracy Culumber

Dr. Judea Pearl delivered a message of tolerance and journalistic integrity, while reflecting on the death of his son Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who was killed in Pakistan in 2002.

Pearl, who is a professor of computer science and statistics at the University of California, drew a crowd of nearly 100 alumni, community members and students to room 1404 of the Siebel Center, 201 N. Goodwin Ave., to speak about the legacy of his son Tuesday evening.

Pearl’s speech, entitled “The Right Thing: The Legacy of Daniel Pearl,” focused on the story of his son who was taken hostage by a Pakistani militant group in Karachi, Pakistan in January 2002. The terrorist group, calling themselves the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, demanded the release of all Pakistani prisoners and a confiscated shipment of F-16 planes be returned to Pakistan in exchange for Pearl’s life. After 6 days in captivity, the terrorists videotaped Pearl’s beheading.

Emphasizing, “No topic is taboo” throughout the speech, Pearl covered issues ranging from journalistic integrity and the Arab-Israeli conflict to the core principles of Judaism and his son’s impact on Judaism and the world.

“He demanded sanity in the face of madness,” Pearl said during the speech.

Pearl encouraged American students and journalists to learn from Daniels example of “truth, humor, music, humanity and integrity.”

“Tension between Jewish and Muslim students on many campuses causes (universities) to invite me to engage in that dialogue to diffuse that tension,” Pearl said after the speech. “Many of our youngsters admit to being embarrassed and even guilty for being American.”

Pearl spoke about the founding of the Daniel Pearl Foundation and the book, “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” which he and his wife, Ruth, co-edited, and was the inspiration for his speech.

“This is our vision of revenge,” Pearl said during the speech.

He described his “armies” of Jewish, Muslim and Christian supporters as a “coalition of the decent.”

Fred Stavins, city attorney for Champaign and friend of Professor Dan Roth, who helped organize the event, said although he is Catholic, he found Pearl’s message to be “a noble endeavor” and “an interesting parallel” to Christianity and Islam.

“I was listening with different ears,” Stavin said. “Most of it I translated into more universal themes.”

Stavin also said that he was impressed by Pearl’s composure as he spoke about his son, whose picture was projected as a backdrop for Pearl’s podium.

“I admire him for speaking in front on his son,” Stavin said. “It is so difficult.”

“It’s a pretty admirable way to deal with a loss,” said Arthur Kantor, graduate student.

Pearl said, although his son’s death is a tragedy, he can speak openly about his legacy.

“It is not difficult for me because (Daniel) compels me to do it,” Pearl said. “If I don’t take advantage of this opportunity, it is only a tragedy.”

Pearl was sponsored by the CU Jewish Federation, the First Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and a number of other local and student organizations.