"The strength of the United States depends on that very diversity. And by encouraging and teaching our youngest citizens about tolerance and diversity, we can encourage them to make a difference for a much better world tomorrow," Jolie said.
Tina Ghelli, a spokeswoman for UNHCR, agreed that the poster contest may expose students to an ugly reality so it can be replaced with empathy and greater understanding about the world.
She said that such lessons are necessary because school children grow up to become American citizens who don't understand that the difference between a refugee seeking asylum in a friendly country and an immigrant seeking a better life in another country.
"The difference is this: An immigrant has a choice; a refugee has had to flee to save their life," Ghelli said.
Even before the threat of war intensified, Iraqis were the largest group of asylum seekers in industrialized countries in 2002, according to UNHCR.
Iraqis replaced Afghans as the largest national group seeking asylum in 37 industrialized countries in 2002, when 51,000 Iraqis applied for asylum, up slightly from 50,400 in 2001.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who honored last year's poster winners, said that America has a historic connection to people uprooted by war.
"It is often said that America is a nation of immigrants. We are also a nation of refugees. And as President Bush said in his statement, refugees who have settled here in the United States have given back so much in return, contributing to America's great vibrancy and our great diversity. America's commitment to refugees is enduring. It is about who we are as a people," Powell said.
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