“If diplomats were to spend more time in the theater, museums and cinemas, we might have a more just and humane world,” quipped from Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations, in a Sept. 16 speech at the Lincoln Center Global Exchange in New York City.
“We all know what genuine empathy feels like. I’ve not only experienced it myself but seen it happen in one of the most thick-skinned and cynical professions out there,” she joked. “I’m speaking of course of diplomats.” The former journalist and Pulitzer prize winning author has long used theater to address an empathy deficiency among grizzled UN ambassadors.
Last year, she took 20 ambassadors to a performance of Eclipsed, a play about Liberian women’s struggles during the Second Liberian Civil war. Power explains that the play, headlined by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, peeled back the abstraction and helped diplomats see the personal effects of their policies.
In March this year, Power took 17 ambassadors to a showing of the Fun Home, a coming-of age tale anchored on a girl’s relationship with her gay father. Power used the Tony award-winning production—the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist—to promote LGBT rights among her peers. Her guests included the ambassador of Russia, where pride marches and”public expression of non-traditional sexual relations” have been criminalized.
This week, more 140 heads of state will tackle the global refugee crisis at the United Nations General Assembly. Though no Broadway excursions are on the official docket for the busy UNGA attendees, Power still intends to rally the power of art against fear and xenophobia.
Several dignitaries, government officials and business leaders attended a pre-UNGA concert at the Lincoln Center on the theme of art and conflict. Performers included the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus, visual artist Laurie Anderson, actor Brian Stokes Michel and the rousing Haiti Children’s Choir supported by the Andrea Bocelli’s foundation.
“We’ve got to find fresh ways for others to see the stranger’s case as our own,” she said.