WASHINGTON- The 4th World Children's Festival was staged with rousing success over the weekend of June 17-19 on the Mall in the nation's capital. As the introduction to the program states, the festival is "both an end and a beginning". The 4th Arts Olympiad resulted in the development of new friendships, and perspectives are "never the same again."

The festival is the vision of Dr. Ashfaq Ishaq, who first began the series in 1999. A very important aspect of the festival is the 18 families of the US Coast Guard who host some of the young artists and their families who fly often thousands of miles to participate. I sat with folks from New Zealand, and right across from my table was a table of genuine New Yorkers, who cheered for every young artist receiving a certificate of accomplishment and achievement.

This is NOT just a painting competition, this is a full-fledged festival, with over 50 performances offered during the three days the participants spend together. Dressing in national attire is also part of the celebratory dinner held on the last night of the festival. It is hard to imagine an awards dinner lasting for four hours and having no one leave the room, but this was the case on Sunday evening at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel.

Creativity and co-creation are hallmarks of the event, allowing children and adults to develop and enhance mutual respect, dignity and empathy in a global setting. The participants really empower themselves, speaking with and learning from adult leaders who generously share their time.

One such leader is Dr. Liston Bochette, who flew in from Ft. Myers, Florida, where he is deeply involved with the Art of the Olympians project that is based at the Al Oerter Leadership Center. Dr. Bochette spent the entire day on Saturday demonstrating his own work. Anyone who was voted the "Sports Artist of the Year" by the US Sports Academy and who also is an inductee in the University of Florida Athletics Hall of Fame (a "Gator Great" to be sure), as well as a humanitarian, certainly would draw an enormous crowd around him, as was seen on Saturday.

Important international artists such as Antje Tesche-Mentzen, whose sculptures are world-renowned, also participated.

The work done over the weekend built lasting friendships that will develop throughout the world. This "mini-United Nations of young artists and performers" deserves the international accolades it has received and will most likely receive over and over again.