Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace prize and former president of Costa Rica, will be the speaker for the 1996 Karl Taylor Compton Lectures at MIT beginning next week.
The first of the three lectures by Dr. Arias, "Demilitarization: A Major Factor for Development," will be delivered on Monday, Jan. 13 at 5pm. On Monday, Feb. 24 at 4pm, he will give a talk entitled "Latin America Facing New Challenges." He will conclude the series with "How Much Poverty Can Democracy Endure?" on Monday, April 14 at 4pm. All three talks will be in Rm 10-250 and will be followed by a reception. They are open to the public.
In addition, the first lecture will be followed up by a smallgroup discussion with Dr. Arias on Jan. 14 from 4-6pm in Rm 7-338.
Dr. Arias, 56, studied law and economics at the University of Costa Rica and earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Essex, England. After serving as professor of political science at the University of Costa Rica, he was appointed minister of planning and economic policy. He won a seat in Congress in 1978, was elected secretary-general of the National Liberation Party in 1981, and was elected president of Costa Rica in 1986.
The following year, Dr. Arias drafted a peace plan to end the political crisis in Central America. Widely recognized as the Arias Peace Plan, his initiative culminated in the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords, or the Procedure to Establish a Firm and Lasting Peace in Central America, by all the Central American presidents on August 7, 1987. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this accomplishment.
In 1988, Dr. Arias used the prize's monetary award to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. The foundation helped establish the Center for Human Progress to promote equal opportunities for women in all sectors of Central American society, the Center for Philanthropy to foster change-oriented philanthropy in Latin America, and the Center for Peace and Reconciliation to work for demilitarization and conflict resolution in the developing world. (For more information, see the Web site at http://www.ecouncil.ac.cr/centroam/arias/inffa-i.htm>).
Dr. Arias has received honorary doctorates from Harvard and several other colleges and universities. His other honors include the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award and the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award.
The lecture series was established in 1957 to honor the late Professor Compton, who was president of MIT from 1930-48 and chairman of the Corporation from 1948-54. It aims to give the MIT community direct contact with important ideas of our times by those who have contributed to modern thought. This year's lectures are sponsored by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the School of Architecture and Planning and the Provost's Office. For more information, call x3-2024.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 8, 1997.