It's been 19 years since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel at the Camp David summit. It's been 17 years since he was assassinated by religious militants in his own country.
His widow, Madame Jehan Sadat, came to Utah on Wednesday to speak about her husband - and to recall his conviction and honesty. Sadat said she always understood he was willing to risk everything, even his life, for peace. When she learned he would go to Israel, she saw how it would all end. She knew she would eventually lose him. But she never said a word except to encourage him and tell him only he could make peace happen.Sadat gave the keynote address at the annual Franklin Covey convention at the Salt Palace. She said Anwar Sadat was a man who knew how to practice the art of endurance, who had integrity, and whose principles will be remembered in Egypt through a small museum she is building in his honor. Sadat concluded by reading a love poem she wrote for her husband.
She was 15 when she first met Anwar Sadat. He was just out of prison, a well-known revolutionary who was helping Gamal Abdel Nasser rid Egypt of the British and King Faruk.
"I had a big crush on this daring Egyptian patriot," she said. When she introduced him to her mother, who was British, she hoped he would make a good impression. But when her mother asked Anwar Sadat what he thought of Winston Churchill - who was the older woman's personal hero - Anwar Sadat said Churchill was a thief who stole Egypt from the Egyptians.
Jehan did not understand why he wasn't more diplomatic. Later he explained to her that it was not in his nature to maneuver or manipulate or tell half-truths just to please.
She suggested that on his next visit he could tell the truth about what he read in prison - Charles Dickens. Eventually her mother relented and allowed them to marry.
A member of the audience asked Sadat what it was like to grow up in a house where the father was an Egyptian Muslim and the mother was a British-born Christian. She explained that a Muslim man may marry a Christian wife but everyone understands the children will take the father's religion. She never converted but supported the children in their form of worship. She adored her husband, and they had a warm family life, Sadat said.
In answer to a question about what she thinks of the Shiites, she said, "The right and true Islam is for love, not revenge. They are not (true) Muslims who are bombing and killing."
She also said the United States must help bring peace between Palestine and Israel. They will never forget President Carter's role in bringing lasting peace to their country, she said.
In an interview after her speech, Sadat told the Deseret News about her own political activities. While her husband was in power, she worked to end Egypt's overpopulation and championed women's rights.
The women's movement in Egypt was not like the women's movement in the West, she said. Theirs is a conservative society. "I always respected the traditions," Sadat said. The women got what they wanted, not by demonstrations, but by working with and through the men in parliament.
Before the "family laws" were passed, a man could divorce his wife without even telling her. Egyptian women could, and regularly did, lose their home and their children and were sent off to live in poverty. The family laws gave them the right to alimony, to stay in their home and have custody of young children.
After her husband was killed, Sadat stayed active in social causes while earning a Ph.D. in Arabic poetry. For the past few years she's taught in the United States - currently at the University of Maryland. She goes home often to visit her four children and 10 grandchildren.
In the last decade, since she began to travel and teach, she hasn't been an activist - except for the time when the family laws were repealed. Then she went back to Egypt and organized women's meetings - of jour-nalists, teachers, social workers - and helped the women of her country get the family laws reinstated.