Happy 90th birthday, Mr. President!

Peres, who will celebrate his birthday in June at the fifth Presidential Facing Tomorrow Conference, takes it all in stride.

INDEPENDENCE DAY is generally one of the busiest days in the calendar of President Shimon Peres beginning in the morning with a special reception for former presidents, prime ministers, defense ministers, past and present leaders of the defense and intelligence establishment and past and present commanders of the IDF from the War of Independence to the present day.
This is immediately followed by the ceremony honoring 120 of the nation’s most outstanding young soldiers selected from the army, navy and air force. In the afternoon there is a reception for the diplomatic corps, and in the evening Peres attends the Israel Prize ceremony, where he is a member of the presidium.
All this would be daunting for even a young man.
But Peres, who will turn 90 on August 2, and will celebrate his birthday in June at the fifth Presidential Facing Tomorrow Conference, takes it all in stride.
The three-day conference, which starts June 18, will be held as always at the capital’s International Convention Center. International luminaries such as Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, not to mention various heads of state and economic and scientific gurus, will speak at the conference. But the star attraction will be Barbra Streisand, who is attending at the president’s special invitation.
The conference will begin with a reception by invitation only in honor of Peres’s 90th birthday. The following two days will be devoted to lectures, discussions, panels and master classes on subjects such as a changing Middle East; economic principles versus social values; tikkun olam (repairing the world): a passing trend or a new Judaism; hope for a green tomorrow; brain research – the wondrous voyage into ourselves; tomorrow’s wars – no longer science fiction; the medicine of tomorrow; the new media and whether it’s still renewing; how opinions are formed; the land of milk and honey and natural gas – challenges and opportunities; whether the Israel economy is ready for tomorrow; political Islam and where it may be headed; corporate responsibility; Judaism and women’s equality, plus several other thought-provoking topics.
The idea behind the conference is to enable participants to engage on central issues that will influence future geopolitics, economics, society, environment, culture, identity, education, communication, health, medicine and more.
It was Peres himself who conceived the conference, believing that only good could come from bringing together so many experts of so many diverse backgrounds to share their thoughts.
Experience has taught him, he says, that people tend to underestimate the tremendous ability within them, and yet mankind has the power to make a difference toward the betterment of a collective tomorrow.
The test of leaders is in understanding this truth and to set the goals to pave the routes that will free this power and wisdom within all of us, he says.
“Leaders should govern less and serve more,” he says.
Toward this end, special emphasis will be placed on the human factor and its role in shaping tomorrow.
The conference will explore whether the quality of leadership in all realms of human activity can make a difference, and to what degree people can really be involved in influencing their futures.
As he has done at previous Facing Tomorrow conferences, Peres will attend several of the sessions, simply listening at some, commenting at others and occasionally taking a more active role.