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Nearly One Million Estimated to Have Experienced One of the Largest Recent Events on the National Mall

Largest Recent Events

Today, The Art of Living Foundation – organizers of the World Culture Festival– estimate nearly one million people experienced the free, three-day celebration of peace. Attendees on the National Mall were treated to 23 hours of family-friendly programming, including 60 performances by over 17,000 predominantly American artists, musicians and dancers representing cultures from every corner of the globe.

Top: The World Culture Festival featured a Parade of Nations | Bottom: Nearly one million people estimated to have experienced the three-day World Culture Festival in Washington D.C. September 29 – October 1, 2023

(Credit: The Art of Living Foundation)

During the weekend’s program, a monumental occasion marked by a gathering of global citizens from 180+ countries, founder & global humanitarian Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar welcomed the world to Washington and appealed for the creation of a more humane and peaceful society. 

“Wars are first fought in the minds of people. If the mind is serene, if the mind is calm, then there is peace,” Gurudev said. “Let’s commit ourselves again on this occasion to bring more happiness. Let’s bring more smiles and wipe the tears of people around us. That’s humanness.”

Gurudev also recognized exemplary leaders in health care, education and law enforcement who embody human values in their important work for society.

Mourine Evans, Nursing Director at Children’s National Hospital and 2023 Black Nurse of the Year, receives a Human Values Award from Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

(Credit: The Art of Living Foundation)

Humanness in the corporate world was the theme of this year’s Global Leadership Forum, which convened as part of the WCF on Saturday afternoon in downtown Washington. Over 1,200 leaders from across American industry recommitted their companies to prioritize human values of connection, compassion, and kindness, recognizing this as key to the future of business.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who addressed a mammoth crowd at the National Mall on Saturday expressed gratitude to Gurudev for his deep wisdom and bringing the world together.

“What a beautiful transformation of the National Mall for this incredible occasion. I want to say first to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, how grateful I am to you for the deep wisdom that you shared with the world and for bringing us together. Celebrations like today are powerful because they remind us of how essential our connections to one another are. And we need that reminder today more than ever,” Dr. Murthy remarked as he noted the epidemic of loneliness and isolation that has created a mental health crisis.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General, U.S. at the World Culture Festival shared his thoughts on how such festivals can enhance human connection and help fight against epidemics of loneliness and isolation.

(Credit: The Art of Living Foundation)

Former First Lady of Japan, Akie Abe also spoke and thanked the Art of Living for the group’s 42 years of service to humanity, reflecting on the work done to help millions of people live happier and healthier lives through meditation techniques and wisdom. “I too have experienced that meditation has given me immense strength when I needed it. Inner peace of every individual is most essential. It is indeed possible to experience inner peace when our collective spirit comes together in this manner. The World Culture Festival is a beautiful way to celebrate life. I have heard Gurudev saying that joy is our very nature. That is very much evident here.”

Gurudev also announced today that the Art of Living Foundation will plant 42 million trees around the world to mark 42 years of foundation service to humanity and the environment. The Foundation has already planted over 81 million trees around the world as part of its sustainable development initiatives. The continuation of that important part of the group’s work was highlighted on stage Sunday.

The weekend’s program treated attendees to entertainment representing a vast array of human cultural traditions and art forms from every corner of the globe. The memorable moments included:

  • Kurtis Blow & other American musical legends and break dancers celebrating 50 years of Hip Hop – 175 dancers
  • A one thousand voice gospel choir performing together on one stage
  • A “Viva Mexico” celebration featuring traditionally costumed dancers ranging from 10-70 years old – 180 dancers
  • Panchabhootham (honoring the elements) with 990 Indian classical dance and symphony
  • 100 dancers representing the cultures of the Middle East Arabian Nights – 100 dancers
  • Flavors of Bolivia – 250 dancers
  • Sounds of Pakistan – 100 dancers
  • Songs and Smiles a Celebration of Chinese Culture – 1000 artists
  • Traditional Korean Dance – 60 performers
  • 100 youth dancers representing the heart of Ukraine through folk music & dance
  • Djembe drummers from West Africa with Amadou Kouyate – 150 performers 

Additional select photos from the World Culture Festival are available here and should be credited to The Art of Living Foundation. 

An impressive series of remarks were made from current and former heads of state, elected officials from every level of the U.S. government, foreign dignitaries, and leaders from spiritual and business organizations. Among some of the noteworthy speakers were:

  • H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations, Chair, Reception Committee of World Culture Festival, South Korea
  • US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
  • The Honorable Muriel Bowser, Mayor of Washington DC
  • The Honorable Rick Scott, US Senator (R-FL)
  • The Honorable Danny Davis, US Representative (D-IL)
  • The Honorable Raja Krishnamoorthi, US Representative (D-IL)
  • The Honorable Neal Dunn, US Representative (R-FL)
  • The Honorable Kat Cammack, US Representative (R-FL)
  • The Honorable Dr. S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs
  • H.E. Ram Nath Kovind, Former President of India
  • The Honorable Ms. Sumitra Mahajan, Former Speaker of Lok Sabha
  • Mrs. Akie Abe, Former First Lady of Japan
  • The Honorable Hakubun Shimomura, Member of the House of Representatives, Japan
  • Mrs. Rosalia Arteaga Serrano, Former President of Ecuador
  • H.E. Nambaryn Enkhbayar, Former President, Mongolia
  • The Honorable Binod Chaudhary, Member of Parliament, Nepal
  • The Honorable Alojz Peterle, Former Prime Minister, Slovenia
  • The Honorable Kjell Magne Bondevik, Former Prime Minister, Norway
  • The Honorable Sergiu Prodan, Minister of Culture, Moldova
  • The Honorable Ryszard Czarnecki, Member of European Parliament, Poland
  • The Honorable Dr. André Hahn, Member of Parliament, Germany        
  • H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President, Nigeria
  • H.E. Moncef Marzouki, Former President of Tunisia
  • The Honorable Charles S. Ramson, MP, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Guyana
  • The Honorable Mrs. Krishna Mathoera, Minister of Defense, Suriname
  • H.E. Rosalía Arteaga Serrano, Former President, Ecuador
  • H.E. Federico Franco, Former President, Paraguay
  • The Honorable Hildebrando Tapia, Former Vice President, Andean Parliament
  • Mrs. Rosalia Arteaga Serrano, Former President of Ecuador
  • Mike Perlis, Vice Chairman of Forbes Media
  • Tim Draper, Founder, Draper Associates

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