Chicago hosts the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates this week at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Poverty, a lack of education and arms proliferation present daunting obstacles, yet peace can be achieved if world leaders are more willing to talk and young people are encouraged to get involved, Nobel Peace Prize winners said Monday, the first day of the the annual meeting.
Former presidents Jimmy Carter of the United States, Mikhail Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union and Lech Walesa of Poland were among the peace prize winners in Chicago for the start of the three-day World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The summit comes just weeks before Chicago hosts President Barack Obama and foreign leaders for the NATO summit, a meeting that is expected to draw large numbers of anti-war protesters. Obama did not attend Monday's meetings.
Carter said that, as the last global superpower, the U.S. has a responsibility to be a leader in peace efforts and set an example to the rest of the world. Instead, he said, the U.S. is "too inclined to go to war" and is contemplating going to war again, "perhaps in Iran."
"Humankind has got to say that war comes last" and negotiation comes first, Carter said during a panel discussion with Gorbachev, Walesa and former South African President F.W. de Klerk.
All said that more young people need to adopt the ideals of peace -- including human rights, justice and environmental issues -- whether it's in the rest of the world or their own communities.
"We need to be reminded of the standards that the Nobel laureates have always tried to achieve ... just because in their own communities they saw a need for change," Carter said.
But de Klerk said many are vulnerable to bad influences because of poor education, poverty and unemployment.
"They are vulnerable because they have nothing to lose," he said.
It is the first time the Nobel Peace Prize summit has been held in North America. The Nobel Laureates also toured more than a dozen Chicago Public Schools on Monday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared with the guests and spoke with students at Frederick Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center.
"Our students come from every nation, ethnicity and background," he said, again calling Chicago the most American of American cities.
Former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to give the keynote address at Monday's opening night dinner. Actor Sean Penn will be presented with the 2012 Peace Summit Award for his work in Haiti.
The Nobel summit -- titled "Speak Up, Speak Out for Freedom and Rights" -- runs through Wednesday.
Nobel Peace Prize winners from Chicago include President Barack Obama and Jane Addams.
Addams became the first woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She was recognized for her international peace efforts and work on behalf of Chicago's immigrant communities.
The NATO summit will be held May 20-21 at McCormick Place, and preparations for the meeting of global leaders have been intense. The city has amped up security plans with Chicago police, the Illinois National Guard and state police, as thousands of activists are expected to protest the event. Chicago was also supposed to host the G-8 summit, but the Obama administration moved it to Camp David.
Visit the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for more information.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.