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John Hume
John Hume
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John Hume Interview (page: 7 / 8)

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  John Hume

Mr. Hume, you mentioned your role as a historian and the vivid sense of history you felt in Strasbourg. How significant do you think your background as a scholar has been in the work you've done for Northern Ireland?

John Hume: The subjects that I specialized in eventually, when I got to university, and got my degree in, were French and history, so that I became a very fluent speaker of another people's language. And, of course, that obviously developed my whole concept of diversity, and of the actual diversity of the world and it made a big -- and of course, my history, as well. Obviously, your education does develop your philosophy, and central to my philosophy, of course, is the whole concept of respect for diversity. The realization is that difference is of the essence of humanity. There's not two people in the whole world who are the same, and when you look at conflict, no matter where it is, what's it about? It's about difference, whether it's religion, race, or nationality, and the answer to difference, as I have kept saying, is to respect, not to fight about it because difference is an accident of birth. Not one of us chose to be born into any particular community. Therefore, when I see a divided community like our own, I would say to people on the other side of that community, if you had been born into the other community, would you be fighting with what is now your old community and vice versa?

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In other words, the essence of unity of any community is respect for diversity.

When you look at the founding fathers of the United States, what was their philosophy? It's often forgotten, but I was very aware and it's written, summarized on the American cent, E pluribus unum, written large on the grave of Abraham Lincoln, "From many we are one." The essence of our unity is respect for diversity. And of course, when you consider the founding fathers of the United States were driven out of other countries by poverty, by famine, by conflict, by all of those things, and they decided that those things weren't going to happen in their new land. And that was a philosophy, and of course, when you consider that, the essence of unity is respect for diversity, that's a philosophy of peace for the world.

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I learned all that as a student, but I also think that education is central to the development of any society. Our generation was the first generation to get full education right through to the university level. That's why I have been saying publicly, in recent months, that one of the things that we should be sending to Afghanistan is education. When you look at that poor country, 85 percent of its women can't read or write because women are not allowed to go to school, and 65 percent of the community can't read or write because they don't go to school. The only wealth that exists in this world, the only wealth that any country has is people. Without people, any country is a jungle. It's people who create, and therefore, if there is no education, their talents and creativity will not be fully developed.

Education has transformed our society. I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if it wasn't for education and before I grew up, our society was full of intelligent people who didn't get educated, and very many of them were known as street characters, you know, and were very humorous people. I've been asked in recent interviews, "Are there any street characters in your city now?" and I say, "No, there's not." He says, "Well, where are they?" and I said, "They're all university professors." But, that's the case. Education and I think this is a real strong message, particularly for third world countries and countries that are suffering terrible poverty and underdevelopment. While it's right and proper to send them food and money, we should also -- the best help we can give them is send them education, ensure that all of their young people and children will be fully educated because when that happens, a country will then become self-sufficient because its own people will create its own wealth.

Mr. Trimble, you taught for some years at Queens University School of Law. Do you think that being a law professor has informed what you have accomplished in recent years?

David Trimble: Law and politics go naturally together because so much of political life does revolve around law and legislation. The mental techniques that lawyers develop are particularly helpful, I think, in dealing certainly with legislation, but also, I think, in dealing with politics as well, and that is the ability to analyze, to cope with a considerable volume of material, and to try and pick out from that what is relevant, what is not relevant, are particularly important and attention to detail also comes through, as well. My own preferred approach, in terms of approaching a political situation, will be not in terms of coming from sweeping, broad principles, or from emotional positions, but from a position of having respect for the facts that you're dealing with, and looking at them closely, examining what is/what is not possible. A less dramatic perhaps form of approach, but yet one that is absolutely essential, doesn't mean that you don't have principles that guide you, and goals that you're working towards, but it does mean that you focus on what is practicable, and what is realizable, and that you have some respect for the medium with which you are working, which is other people and other particular situations, and you don't assume that you can remold humanity or change situations by dramatic gestures. So, the painstaking, methodical approach of the lawyer is, I think, actually a desirable thing, in life generally and particularly in political life, where people can quite often succumb to ideological views, and to the belief that it is possible easily to produce revolutionary change, when in fact it's not.

If it simply remains a matter of the UDA (the Ulster Defense Association), pitched against the Irish Republican Army, then the rest of society will be the loser, and John is quite right in that sense. What we need to do is to change the context entirely, and that is to get away from a society that is going to be dominated by competing sectarian ghettos, to a society where everybody is living by the same set of rules.

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This page last revised on Sep 27, 2010 14:45 EDT