A historic luncheon at which Ms. Opal Lee, 95, who is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” because of her activism to make June 19 a federally recognized holiday, met with Raveen Arora, 72, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, for the first time on November 10 at Hackberry Creek Country Club in Irving.
Before the luncheon, Arora released this statement:
This meeting today with Ms. Opal Lee is one of the highlights of my life.
The circumstances of our lives have been different, yet we have much in common. We both have experienced the pain of discrimination and racism at an early age, she from white supremacists who burned down her home when she was a child—racism made worse by violence. My family experienced institutional racism leftover from British rule of India, the same racism that I had to overcome as a child. I was present when my grandfather was forbidden to enter a ‘whites only’ cricket club because ‘Indians and dogs were not allowed.‘
But those same circumstances of my life led me to meet many famous people who helped shape the person I am today. These have included Mother Teresa when I was six years old. She became my mentor and teacher as I was growing up, teaching me compassion, humility, dignity, and respect. Later in life, at the age of 11, I met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom I discussed the inequality that I had experienced in India, and which had triggered my passion for helping others. He taught me that it is good to be blessed, but it is better to be a blessing. Much later, I met Muhammad Ali and then-Congressman John Lewis, and learned much from both men.
All these people left a profound impact on me and the way I lived my life and operated my businesses. I think the results can be seen in some of the awards I was lucky to receive and that was the underpinning of my nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. These included the Mother Teresa International Service Award; the Martin Luther King Jr Diversity Award; the National Restaurant Association Face of Diversity – American Dream Award; and the National Diversity Council’s Diversity First Award.
I list these awards not to highlight myself, but to show the similarities between what I work towards and what Ms. Lee also works towards and what she has achieved—she is already in the history books for her achievements! Our similarities lie in our beliefs about equality, diversity, and opportunity.
My signature phrase is “I am human. Nothing human is alien to me.” Hers is “None of us are free until we’re all free.”We are in fundamental agreement on both phrases.
Both high-achieving people share the same message of freedom and basic human rights.
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