Ambassador Perkins with the plaque that officially marks the opening of the Peace Gallery: "I cannot think of anything so powerful that exists like the spirit of such human beings. There is nothing, even in the field of weapons, that exceeds that spirit."
Recalling the inspiration of South Africa's Nelson Mandela, India's Mahatma Gandhi and his own contemporary, Martin Luther King Jr, the United States Ambassador to Australia, Mr Edward Perkins, officially opened the "Posters for Peace" Gallery recently at Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS).
In a major lecture later, Mr Perkins, who served as the US envoy to Liberia, South Africa and the United Nations before his posting to Australia, also told about 200 people that non-violent protest, although often illegal, had, quite literally, changed the world.
Mr Perkins, one of America's most distinguished diplomats, was at CPACS at the invitation of its director, Professor Stuart Rees, who had heard his address on conflict resolution to Sydney University graduates a year earlier.
Mr Perkins, a career diplomat, was the first black ambassador appointed by the US to what was then apartheid South Africa, his nomination for the post coming only a day after the US Congress overturned President Reagan's veto of comprehensive economic sanctions against South Africa.
He recalled the freedom rides and the marches to win civil rights in the US and his participation in an officially illegal church service in South Africa to protest the apartheid regime's law banning mothers from protesting the goaling of their children.
But most of all, Mr Perkins said that the human spirit, embodied by the Mandelas, the Kings, the Gandhis, and others like Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, were often able to overcome the worst types of oppression.
"I cannot think of anything so powerful that exists like the spirit of such human beings," the Ambassador said.
"There is nothing, even in the field of weapons, that exceeds that spirit."
An edited text of the Ambassador's address will appear in a bigger edition of the News early next year.