September 28, 1995
Web posted at: 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT)
From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- What's the world coming to? Or perhaps the question should be: Where is it headed? The State of the World Forum, which opened Wednesday, is looking for answers. The forum, a mix of leaders, thinkers and celebrities, is the work of the Mikhail Gorbachev Foundation, headed by the former Soviet leader. The San Francisco conference will end on Sunday with a discussion panel of present and former world leaders, including former U.S. President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (CNN's Bernard Shaw will moderate the discussion, to be carried live on CNN at 2 p.m. EDT).
As he opened the forum, Gorbachev spoke of mutual solidarity, unity in diversity and world peace as goals to bring the world out of the turbulent post-Cold War era. "From the outset I would like to suggest that we consider the establishment of a global brain trust to focus on the present and future of our civilization," he said.
The conference also will assess the world's changing need for security, its emerging economies, and how to form new civil structures in societies torn by chaos. "From this meeting are going to come answers to problems," not just theory, Guatemalan human rights activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberto Menchu said through an interpreter. "It may be that ultimately we'll see a more peaceful world and a new mechanism for peace emerge out of all of this," said another forum guest, former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston of California.
Cleaning up Cold War environmental messes also is on the agenda. Turner Broadcasting Chairman Ted Turner called the problem "monumental" but added, "the tools at our disposal are greater than they ever have been before."
The forum also includes a session on "Global Crisis of Spirit and the Search for Meaning." "I'm very fascinated that it's reached a point where it's recognized as a global problem," said actress Shirley MacLaine, one of several celebrities taking part in the gathering. And actor Dennis Weaver, a longtime environmental activist, said, "All other issues cannot be solved if we don't have a place to live."
"People the world over are recognizing the need for new structures, new institutions and most importantly new attitudes," said former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who now is working for long-term peace in northern Ireland.
Gorbachev's foundation is following in the footsteps of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has shown through his work in Haiti, Central America, Africa, and America's inner cities that former heads of state don't have to be put out to pasture when their terms of office are over.
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