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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 16, 2008

Former child soldier and author Ishmael Beah to speak at UI Oct. 29

Ishmael Beah, former child soldier and author of "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the First United Methodist Church, 214 E. Jefferson St. in Iowa City, as part of the University of Iowa Lecture Series.

The University Lecture Committee and the Office the Provost will present the lecture, which is free and open to the public. A book signing and sale will follow, courtesy of the University Book Store. "A Long Way Gone" is the selected book of the One Community, One Book program, presented by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR).

In "A Long Way Gone," Beah tells his story of becoming a boy soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone. At the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels. After being separated from his parents and two brothers who were presumably killed, Beah was recruited to fight for government forces when he was 13 years old. He fought for over two years before he was removed from the army by UNICEF and placed in a rehabilitation home in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

After completing rehabilitation in late 1996, Beah won a competition to attend a conference at the United Nations to talk about the devastating effects of war on children in his country. While there he met Laura Simms, a professional storyteller who lives in New York who later became his new mother. __In 1998, Beah came to live with his American family in New York City. He completed high school at the United Nations International School and, subsequently, graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in political science.

Throughout his high school and undergraduate education, Beah continued his advocacy work to bring attention to the plight of child soldiers and children affected by war around the world, speaking on numerous occasions on behalf of UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Secretary General's Office for Children and Armed Conflict. He has also spoken at the United Nations General Assembly, serving on a United Nations panel with Secretary General Kofi Annan and discussing the issue with dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Committee.__

The lecture is being presented in conjunction with the One Community, One Book program. Initiated in 2001 by Dorothy Paul and Burns Weston at the UICHR, One Community, One Book began as a countywide reading project to bring together every adult and adolescent in Johnson County to discuss the same human rights-related text. During the past three years, it has expanded to include neighboring communities and counties. This year, the program provided books to approximately 4,300 first-year UI undergraduate students and will provide on-campus programming to support learning about the issues raised in the book.

One Community, One Book is sponsored by UICHR; Humanities Iowa; UI Charter Committee on Human Rights; University Book Stores; the UI Alumni Association; Hancher Auditorium; International Programs; the International Writing Program; the Iowa Writers' Workshop; University of Iowa Departments of English and History; Iowa Book LLC; UI Libraries; Iowa City Human Rights Commission; the Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon and West Liberty public libraries; Hills Bank & Trust Company; Midwest One Bank; West Bank and Prairie Lights Books. City High School, West High School and Regina High School are also participating. This program is supported by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information on the lecture, see For more information on the One Community, One Book Program, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: University Lecture Committee, 319-335-3407; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,

OTHER INFORMATION: Media can interview Beah during a teleconference at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 20 in the Executive Boardroom, Room 2390 on the second floor of Old Capitol Town Center (also known as the Old Capitol Mall), 201 S. Clinton Street.