Patsy Aldana

Congress Opening Speech

Sunday, 7 September 2008, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Your highness Queen Margrethe, Mr. Brian Mikkelsen Minister of Culture, our beloved friend Vagn Plenge Congress President, thank you for your support and hard work and warm welcome.

Dear IBBY friends, dear Andersen laureates Jürg Schubiger and Roberto Innocenti, and dear special guests,

I welcome you all to what will certainly be a wonderful, interesting and productive Congress in this beautiful city of Copenhagen.

IBBY’s work is growing and expanding. We have just had a very fruitful day looking at ourselves to see how we can work more effectively to help the children of this world.  For amidst the splendour of this Congress we must not forget that children everywhere need and have the right to the richness, knowledge, joy and power that comes from being able to read the best books from their own cultures and from other cultures around the world.  And we also know, as Hans Christian Andersen showed us so eloquently in his stories, that far too many of the world’s children are tragically denied the decent, full life they are entitled to because of poverty, war, natural disaster, displacement, racism, ignorance and hunger. We cannot fail to be moved by this reality and so we keep trying to improve our work on behalf of the most vulnerable people in the world – the children – and to remember that reading and books can transform a child’s possibilities and even save lives.  I wish you a great and enriching experience at this – our 31st World Congress.


Congress closing address

Wednesday, 10 September 2008, Wallmans, Copenhagen

Dear IBBY Friends,

We have come to the end of this rich feast of presentations, ideas and images. We have renewed old friendships and made new friends.  For one of our great gifts as an organization is that our friendships circle the globe. We deplore the absence of those who for reasons of geopolitics were unable to join us, and via UNESCO we will urge the governments of the world to review their consular policies that keep people of good will from working together to further the goal of enriching children’s lives and giving them access to books.

We have recommitted ourselves to strengthening our ability to serve children by broadening and deepening the work of our national sections. And I urge all the participants here from our sections to go home and use what we have learned to make each section stronger and more representative. We will expand, strengthen and improve our projects for children in crisis. Here, I would especially like to thank our generous sponsors: the Katherine Paterson Family Foundation for sponsoring the pre-congress workshop, Hideo Yamada for funding the IBBY Yamada workshop programme, and the many generous private individuals and organizations who have donated money for our Children in Crisis programme.

Thanks to all this hard thinking and working, and together with our new and strengthened partnerships with IFLA, IRA and CODE, we will not only continue and improve our workshops and the Children in Crisis programmes, support the growth of our national sections, but we shall also develop new initiatives to strengthen and enrich our work in Reading Promotion. We are currently planning a far-seeing initiative to make information about the very best Reading Promotion programmes run by members of IBBY, IFLA and IRA around the world available in one place.  We know this will be a very useful initiative and will do our very best to make it easily accessible and multi-lingual.

On the very important question of language we pledge to increase access to our documentation in more languages.  Our new and exciting cooperation with the Government of Galicia – the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Children's and Young Adult's Literature – will also enhance our knowledge of and respect for minority languages and remind us of the importance of reading in a child’s mother tongue.

And we will work to promote the establishment of new National Sections in Africa, Central America, the Middle East and South Asia.

This is the place to warmly thank our Conference Organisers: Vagn Plenge, President of the Congress and Jan Tøth President of IBBY Denmark, and their team of dedicated volunteers for their hard work that has made this the wonderful, exceptional event it has been.  They have brought us together in a gracious, warm and beautiful way—we all thank you so much for the incredibly hard, and often frustrating work you have done.  I hope the success of this amazing event makes you feel that all the endless hours of meetings and hard work was truly worthwhile.  We have no doubt that it was.  Thank you again.

Now I would like to turn to our other thank yous.

First and above all else I would like to thank our extraordinarily dedicated staff, Liz Page and Forest Zhang. I do not need to remind you that nothing much would happen without them, nor how hard they work for so little material reward.  I’m certain that there are very few international organizations of this size that only have two employees. Our deepest thanks, respect and affection. 

Next I would like to thank the outgoing executive committee—which has been so hard working and so effective.  This EC has made so much possible and has been harmonious, dedicated and exceptionally constructive.

I would like to introduce our new EC…..

Now I have to say a very sad farewell to the wonderful, elegant and magnanimous Urs Breitenstein.  He was responsible for raising the funds to allow us to have two full-time staff at the secretariat.  He has given us countless wonderful meals, many, many free drinks and joined us so completely that he even shared a four-person couchette on a trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back!  Urs, thank you so much.  We will miss you terribly, but since you have agreed to serve on the IBBY Foundation Board, where your qualities will be of great benefit to IBBY, you are not completely lost to us.

I’d like to welcome as our new treasurer the person who is probably one of the most beloved of all IBBY people: the estimable Ellis Vance, our outgoing vice-president.  A few years ago Ellis was responsible for turning the financial situation of Bookbird from quite bad to pretty good.  His talents will not only be extremely useful in years to come, but his wisdom, commitment, warmth and seemingly endless willingness to travel will now be available to IBBY for the foreseeable future. 

This is also the time to thank two of the best editors Bookbird has ever had and to mourn their leaving.  We begged them to stay but sadly the answer stayed as no.  They have made our journal a real tool for people around the world and a vehicle for scholars and writers everywhere.  Thank you Valerie and Siobhán.

And now I have the pleasure of introducing the new editors: Sylvia Vardell is professor for Children's and Young Adults Literature at the Texas Woman's University. Joining her is Catherine Kurkjian, who is professor at the Central Connecticut State University.  Sylivia and Catherine will start their editorship with the second issue of 2009.

Now we turn to the wonderful and pleasant job of thanking people who have played a key role in IBBY’s past, and confer on them Honorary Membership.

First, and very sadly because she is unable to be here, we grant this honour to Tayo Shima.

Tayo Shima, former IBBY President, has played an essential role in IBBY’s development.  With the help of others, she led the efforts to find what has become our underlying support of individuals and companies in Japan.  Without this fundamental support the Hans Christian Andersen Awards, the IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award and the IBBY-Yamada programme would not exist. She brought us the inestimably valuable friendship of the Empress of Japan.  And perhaps most importantly, Tayo Shima has always insisted that IBBY keep to its deepest moral and aesthetic values. Tayo’s beautiful virtual exhibitions are wonderful reminders of the history of children’s books and represent the standard to which we can all aspire.

Finally, Tayo is a personal inspiration to me in our current work – she once said that IBBY was only as good as our National Sections – a view that to me is the crux of everything we do and stand for.  This view has guided our work for the last two years and will continue to do so.

Next we would like to honour another of our great presidents who today continues serving IBBY as President of the IBBY Foundation, Carmen Diana Dearden.

Carmen Diana’s presidency was the first for a person from what some call the Global South.  Her passionate commitment to IBBY’s evolution from an essentially first world, even European dominated organization, to a worldwide body that always focuses not only on quality books, but also on the needs of children everywhere, was in many ways revolutionary. Her belief that struggle and conflict were healthy and could help us to evolve, were infuriating to some, but enriching to all and especially to IBBY’s work. IBBY today is in many ways a direct result of Carmen Diana’s visions and ideas.  To be IBBY president from a country without enormous resources, to simultaneously chair the award winning Banco del Libro and to keep the excellent groundbreaking publisher Ekare going while also devoting herself heart and soul to IBBY required the strength, commitment, intelligence and ferocity that make her the outstanding force in IBBY that she continues to be.  And I’m sure there has never been a President who was more fun! 

Finally, where would we be without Katherine Paterson? 

Katherine came to us as a Hans Christian Andersen winner.  She became the person who allows us to be the IBBY that we are.  Whenever I speak about IBBY today, the programme that excites the most interest, enthusiasm, excitement and support is the IBBY Children in Crisis Programme.  Katherine’s commitment to this programme, shown by her complete sponsorship of the library project in Gaza, and reflected most recently in her funding of our pre-congress workshop, makes our Children in Crisis project possible.  Her support has allowed many IBBY sections to participate in the workshop that otherwise might not have been able to join us at this congress.

But beyond that, Katherine is always by our side.  She comes to our congresses, she and John who is so often by her side. Katherine and John went to the IBBY Cuba Congress just after 9/11—a very brave and important gesture at a time when so many people were in panic and disarray and when their governments opposed such travel. Katherine’s moral compass and understanding of why IBBY matters inform our thinking and her material support makes it possible for our ideas to become concrete.

Now it is my great pleasure to introduce Mr Woo-Hyon Kang of Nami Island Inc.

When Nissan decided that they could no longer continue to support our Hans Christian Andersen Award I was extremely dismayed.  But in seconds I thought of Mr Kang! His inspiring presentation at our Members Forum in Macau had galvanised us all.  I asked and he said yes.  How gracious.  For the next ten years we can count of the support from Nami Island Inc.  This evening it is my honour to publicly thank you from the bottom of IBBY’s heart for your support of our most prestigious prize. I am honoured to welcome Mr Woo-Hyon Kang, Mr Woong-Kih Minn and Ms Kye-Youn Lee who join us today from Nami Island Inc.  We look forward to many years of close and fruitful collaboration. Please come forward Mr. Kang.