US Department of Peace
We have stood in solidarity with people staging "Peace Gatherings" all over the country. This group in Vermont stands for an hour in front of the town courthouse every week.
At an old military air base in Wendover, Utah, we stopped to see "Hanger Five." This is where the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, was kept. Our Department of Peace is aimed at (among other things): This never happening again, anywhere!
Just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, we stopped at a Peace Memorial. For each soldier in the area that had died in a war, a small glass block is inserted into the building/sculpture. As I stood there, I prayed I was seeing the completed sculpture.
US Department of Peace Policy in Short
*To read the full policy paper, see further below
"I told Fox News in Cleveland, Ohio, that our administration would be as proactive as possible in developing a "U.S. Department of Peace." -Joe
Establish a cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peace.
Four year Peace Academy on a par with military academies.
Study panels to assess causes of: war, terrorism, inner city violence, domestic violence...
Commitment to worldwide social justice, public health, environmental sustainability...
Stepped up Peace Corps work.
Promotion of many collegiate level (and other) "Cross Cultural Emersion Experiences."
"Adopt a Country" programs for students grades 7-12.
Bolster American Field Service; U.S. People Ambassadors, International Student Exchange and similar existing peace-building programs.
Teach about non-violent direct actions and increase grassroots peacemaking efforts.
Inspire multi-dimensional models to build much more peace in families, schools and on the streets of America.
Lobby for a decrease in American offensive weapons (including nuclear weapons).
While marching in a peace protest just before the Iraq War started, I posed the following question to Toledo's ABC News: "What if we let the weapons inspectors into Montana?" -Joe
US Department of Peace
U.S. Department of Peace position paper
I told Fox News in Cleveland, Ohio, that our administration would be as proactive as possible about trying to build more peace worldwide. And this would be embodied in a new U.S. Department of Peace. –Joe
Excerpt from Joe’s Lima News column several days after 9/11 (amidst talk of bombing Afghanistan): “The question anymore shouldn’t be: Who’s wrong? There’s enough wrong to go around. The question should be: Who’s going to stop the cycle of retaliation?”
Joe to Toledo’s ABC News during a peace protest march shortly before our preemptive strike on Iraq: “What if we let the weapons inspectors into Montana?”
“We should make war on poverty and social injustice,” said Schriner. LA Times, Orange County edition
Categories covered below include: 1) The Issue; 2) The Plan; 3) Peace Corps; 4) Stop the “Silent” Environmental War; 5) Stop the “Silent” Food War; 6) More Humanitarian Help; 7) Cross Cultural Experiences; 8) Adopt a Country; 9) American Field Service; Ambassadors, Student Exchange… ; 10) More International Adoptions; 11) Just Peacemaking; 12) More International Projects; 13) Building Peace through Catastrophe; 14) Peace at Home.
1) The Issue
The world, at present, is fraught with tension in many geographic areas. The tensions are fueled by a myriad of issues.
Countries (including the U.S.) encroach on other countries for land and natural resources. Factions within countries do the same.
Then there is religious strife, like what has happened in Northern Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants.
The chasm (and tension) also continues to grow between haves and have-nots, both within various countries, and between the First World and Second and Third World countries.
And there is the “war” at home, on many fronts.
Inner cities in America have turned into war zones, with skyrocketing murder rates, gang violence, and the like.
School bullying, violence and shootings increase.
Likewise, there is an escalating “war” in families, as domestic violence between spouses, and child abuse, both increase significantly year to year.
The answer is nothing short of creating a U.S. Department of Peace to proactively go about addressing each of these issues.
To that end we have traveled the country extensively, looking for creative ideas to make this Department as effective as possible.
And we found them.
2) The Plan
Establish a U.S. Department of Peace.
According to The Peace Book author Louise Diamond, this would be a cabinet-level Department. She also proposes a four-year Peace Academy on par with the military academies, and a greatly expanded U.S. Institute of Peace.
The U.S. Department of Peace would be a multi-level organization that would inspire the exponential broadening of peace building.
And at the core of this organization would be study panels and think tanks to assess the causes of war, of terrorism, of racial tension, inner city violence, family violence…
Foreign policy would reflect much more diplomatic dialogue, respect and understanding of other cultures. In an exchange with former Secretary of State James Baker on a National Public Radio Show, I said America’s paradigm of “peace through military strength” is tremendously flawed.
For instance, I said America’s build-up of nuclear weapons has sparked worldwide nuclear weapons proliferation.
“Every step (proposed 7.76 billion nuclear weapons budget increase by 2009) the United States takes away from international consensus on the illegality and immorality of nuclear weapons is a new incentive and justification for other nations to pursue and brandish nuclear weapons,” Frida Berrigan wrote in a “Nuclear Surge” commentary for Sojourner Magazine recently. (Frida is the daughter of well-known peace activist Daniel Berrigan.)
We traveled to Luck, Wisconsin, where we interviewed Jerry Mechtenberg-Berrigan (Frida’s brother). He told me he protests for nuclear disarmament because there is no bigger “Pro-Life” issue. That is, if a nuclear war is triggered – most everybody dies.
Ms. Diamond also proposes that the Department of Peace would build more bridges as opposed to “demonizing” other countries. And the Department would make a commitment to worldwide social justice, public health, environmental sustainability, gender equity and the eradication of poverty.
I attended a talk at Bluffton University by William Hartung, who is a President’s Fellow for the World Policy Institute. He said poverty in the Third World is attributable to many joining terrorist cells (just like inner city poverty here is attributable to youth joining gangs).
In tandem with Ms. Diamond’s ideas, The Peace Alliance is pushing to develop a Department of Peace as well. And we would draw from many of their ideas as well.
They propose that the Department advise the President and Secretaries of Defense and State, etc., on the “root causes” of international problems and practical ways to dismantle the violence in the formative stages.
A U.S. Department of Peace would work stridently to expose, and stop, “silent” environment and food wars proliferated by America. And to make amends, it would work to create a much more just distribution of food, goods and resources.
The Department would help subsidize collegiate level “Cross Cultural Emersion Programs,” like the one we researched at Bluffton College in Ohio. (This program sends students all over the world on social justice and peace building missions.)
The Department would also help inspire “Adopt a Country” programs in grades 7-12 to increase international awareness and camaraderie.
The Department would work to tremendously bolster the American Field Service (AFS) Program, the U.S. People Ambassador Program, and the International Student Exchange Program, among others.
The Department would increase conduits (and make the process easier) for international adoptions, including providing incentives for parents to teach the family, and the local community, about the adopted child’s country of origin.
A U.S. Department of Peace would adopt some of author Glen Stassen’s “Just Peacemaking” principles. This would include teaching about non-violent direct actions, reducing offensive weapons and increasing grassroots peace making efforts in general.
The Department would use multi-dimensional models, like the ones we researched at Wilmington College, to build a culture of peace in families, schools and on the streets of America.
And a U.S. Department of Peace would pursue a tremendously expanded Peace Corps to help countries become as sustainable as possible.
3) Peace Corps
We believe a highly proactive “peace strategy” would be to increase Peace Corps work worldwide by a factor of at least 10, if not more. The Peace Corps, traditionally, has helped developing countries become more sustainable, which in turn, eases tension.
President John F. Kennedy started the Peace Corps in the early 1960s. Yet there are currently only about 12,000 people in the Peace Corps.
During a talk to the Athens, Ohio, Peace and Justice Commission, I said our administration would propose offering the same kind of incentives for Peace Corps work that people are currently getting for military service (college scholarships, assured lifetime medical care, adequate pay…).
4) Stop the “Silent Environmental War"
In Marquette, Michigan, we interviewed Robert Gagnon. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya during the mid-‘90s. Fresh out of Michigan University Engineering School, Gagnon was assigned to design a system to provide fresh drinking water for a hospital complex in Kenya, an extremely “arid country,” he said.
Gagnon set up a gutter cistern system on roofs throughout the complex to catch rainwater. Then he installed a cluster of holding tanks. And after several good rains there was enough water to supply the hospital – for two years.
Recent United Nation’s scientist reports are showing global warming carbon dioxide emissions (and America significantly leads the world in this) are contributing to arid countries starting to become more arid, some even drought stricken.
This is nothing short of making “silent war” on these other nations, I said during a talk on environmental stewardship in Wellington, Ohio. As these other countries’ glaciers recede, their rivers and creeks dry up, their rainfall diminishes… because of our emissions and lifestyles, it’s no different than firing slow-motion bullets at these people.
As a way for the U.S. to make amends (and ease international tensions toward us), there should be a unified, mass effort to significantly cut down on our home energy use, driving, factory energy use, and other sources of carbon dioxide emissions, in tandem with mobilizing many more Peace Corps cistern projects, etc., throughout arid countries in the Third World.
5) Stop the “Silent Food War”
According to the United Nations, there are some 24,000 people who starve to death every day in the Third World. And billions more are tremendously undernourished.
Meanwhile, some 66% of Americans are overweight and 33% are now considered obese. What’s more, while attending a talk in Wilmington, Ohio, I learned Americans waste some one-third of their food, because it’s discarded, or left to spoil, and so on. What’s more, every year we spend billions of dollars on junk food (potato chips, pop, candy…) that has no nutritional value.
Meanwhile children starve.
On a stop in New Hampshire, Village Community Church Youth Minister Richard Castaine told me his youth had recently been given a presentation by a representative from Compassion International. The representative relayed a story of a woman in the Third World who drowned her two young children – rather than watch them slowly starve to death.
Parents have little food or medicine for their children. Yet across the waters, Americans, for the most part, live quite affluently by comparison. By our omission (through gluttony), the international tension grows.
In allowing this, Maryknoll priest Fr. James Noonan (who is stationed in Cambodia) told me most Americans are nothing short of “food terrorists” – of the worst kind. And by hoarding, and wasting, the food, we are – in a very real sense – making yet another “silent war” on the Third World.
Actually 24,000 people starving to death every day, is like a limited nuclear explosion going off every day.
A U.S. Department of Peace would mobilize a series of humanitarian efforts to make serious amends and quell some of the tension.
An example of one of these humanitarian efforts was embodied in some work Julie Liffrig (wife of Campaign 2004 Republican senatorial candidate Mike Liffrig) did for the Peace Corps several years ago. On a stop in Mandan, North Dakota, Mrs. Liffrig told me her Peace Corps work was in the Central Africa Republic.
She said there were many subsistence farmers there, who would squat all day using a short handled hoe. She said the answer was to get these farmers long handled hoes with a swivel implement to help them be more effective with crop yield.
(Mrs. Liffrig also said she believed the answer was not to barrage these Third World countries with the newest in high-tech western technology – which is leading to the demise of the family farm here as corporate farms take over more and more of the land.)
On the “food war” front, another assessment that might come out of a U.S. Department of Peace think tank is: By America pushing for worldwide free trade, these corporate farms (with their high tech mechanization and growing volume) are now actually able to undercut subsistence farmers selling to local markets – all over the world.
In effect, we are making war on the poor of the Third World in this sense as well. And I told the LA Times in Orange County, California, that what we should be making war on is “social injustice and poverty.”
And the way to make the current situation right, is to stop these practices and send scores of Peace Corps volunteers into the Third World (as Mrs. Liffrig went) to teach people how to be better at sustainability – not put them out of business.
Our administration would also push to inspire more American senior citizens to get involved with the Peace Corps, as Ed and Dorothy Baily did.
At a stop in Blanchester, Ohio, Ed told me that in retirement he and his wife did a stint in the Peace Corps. They went to the Philippines where they helped arrange bank loans for small farmers.
6) More Humanitarian Help
We could cut down, exponentially, on international tension if there was a more equitable distribution of food, goods and resources in general.
And our administration would point to Cortland, Ohio’s CHOW non-profit program. In Cortland, I interviewed St. Robert’s Pastor Fr. Carl Kish. He helped start CHOW (Cortland Humanitarian Outreach Worldwide). The organization believes “(the) world suffers from an unequal distribution of goods and resources.”
So seven churches in the area raise money and collect goods to regularly send to the Third World.
They have sent winter clothes to the formerly war-torn Kosovo, medical equipment to Honduras, school desks to El Salvador… all places where the disparities between rich and poor are striking.
Wings of a U.S. Department of Peace could either include similar models (we’ve researched many across the country) and/or the Department of Peace could provide matching grants to these programs, etc.
Likewise, a U.S. Department of Peace could earmark funds for college programs that are orienting students (and actually even sending some out) to bring more worldwide equitability.
For instance, the Chaminade Program at the University of Dayton prepares students to look at careers as more than just jobs, but rather as “vocations.” While I was at a stop at the University, Program Director Maura Skill told me that an engineering student in the Chaminade stream had just spent the summer in Nicaragua and Bolivia with “Ethos Engineering,” a humanitarian aid agency that teaches people there how to install things like cleaner, safer ceramic stoves for cooking.
Many people in the rural parts of these countries still cook on open fires in the homes, causing significant respiratory damage and, often, severe burns to children.
And it is children worldwide who Ellen and Dudley Johns are interested in helping as well.
During a campaign stop in Piqua, Ohio, I interviewed this couple in their modest, one-story home. Ellen explained they had cut back on their lifestyle considerably, and for the past 13 years they have financially adopted 10 children through Childreach International.
The most recent had been Nagina, a 10-year-old at an orphanage in Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border. This had been their response to the events of 9/11.
And an Education wing of a U.S. Department of Peace could stage nationwide seminars to tell the Johns’, and similar, stories.
It would be our administration’s belief that we need to “fight terrorism” on a multitude of fronts, I told the Ashland Times Gazette. And a major one would be to impact as much Third World poverty as possible, so youth growing up in these countries had more options.
I said a youth growing up in dead-end poverty in L.A. might be more apt to join a gang, just as a youth growing up in dead-end poverty in the Third World might be apt to join a terrorist cell.
William Hartung would agree.
I attended a talk by Hartung (who is a President’s Fellow for the World Policy Institute) at Bluffton College shortly after 9/11. Hartung said there was, indeed, much economic inequality worldwide. And he said there should be many more “programs for constructive opportunities” for youth in the Third World. These kinds of initiatives would be much better, in the long run, than fighting terrorism on primarily a military front, added Hartung.
7) Cross-Cultural Experiences
Bluffton College, a Mennonite school, does much to promote peace worldwide. For instance, each Bluffton student is required to participate in a “cross-cultural experience” during their four years. These last anywhere from three weeks to a semester.
I attended a BC session where some students shared about their recent cross-cultural trips.
One had gone to Montreal, Canada, to work in a Soup Kitchen. She also did volunteer work at an inner city church there that was providing sanctuary to a family from South America who was fleeing political oppression. She said the trip to Canada significantly widened her world-view.
Other students shared about their work at a Conflict Resolution Center in Northern Ireland.
And Ellen Scott went to the border towns of Texas to work with Hispanic immigrants. She said she then went on to a student teaching position in Leipsic, Ohio, where she was working with migrant farm worker children. She said her empathy for the migrant farm worker families has increased considerably. And she called their plight “wrenching.”
To promote peace, we have to bring the world closer together. And a U.S. Department of Peace would help inspire, and subsidize, these types of Cross Cultural Programs at colleges across the country.
Just as a U.S. Department of Peace would do a lot to promote more global awareness in younger students as well.
8) Adopt a Country
And our administration would point to projects like that of Fr. Joseph Tawle. I met with Fr. Tawle in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. (He was there promoting his project.)
Fr. Tawle spent 10 years traveling the world filming the video series: Children of the Earth. He regularly travels to talk at schools about his “adopt a country” idea.
His proposition is that from 7th to 12th grade a student adopts a country. This includes things like: following the country’s news over the internet, reading books about the country, giving regular book reports so fellow students learn more about the country…
And another way to learn about a country is to host people from that country.
9) American Field Service, “Ambassadors,” Student Exchange…
I interviewed Joan Bauman, who started an American Field Service (AFS) Chapter at Cory Rawson High School in Ohio. (AFS is a non-profit international exchange program to promote more peace worldwide.)
Besides setting up the AFS Chapter, Ms. Bauman personally hosted students from Denmark, Belgium and Brazil as part of the AFS program. The program is designed to host teachers as well, and Ms. Bauman also personally took in teachers from China and Thailand.
Ms. Bauman added: “There is no better way to get to know others – than to live with them.”
The U.S. People Ambassador Program functions on this assumption as well. Established by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the People Ambassador Program sends students all over the world.
As an example, in Chillicothe, Ohio, I interviewed Carrie Oldacre, 14, who was one of 30 Ohio students going on an extended trip to England, France, Italy and Greece as part of the Ambassador Program.
She told me for six months prior, the students had been studying about all the countries they’d be visiting. And they were corresponding with hosts they’d be staying with along the way.
Conversely, Portsmouth, Ohio’s, Dave and Sally Ferrell became a host family for a high school student from South Korea as part of the International Student Exchange Program.
On a stop in Portsmouth, Dave told me that, not only did the South Korean youth benefit, but so did his family “from learning, first hand, about another culture.”
And a U.S. Department of Peace would do much to promote and subsidize more participation in each of these programs.
As a U.S. Department of Peace would do much to promote more international adoption, and diversity in general.
10) More International Adoptions
In Bluffton, Ohio, I interviewed Lamar Nisly who is the head of the English Department at Bluffton College. He and his wife Deborah (who already had two children) have stepped into helping to bring more of the world together.
They had recently adopted a child from China. Lamar explained that while Annalise, nine-months-old, will grow up in the American culture, they will do all they can to help the child learn about her Chinese heritage as well.
Not only will this benefit Annalise, but Lamar said it will be of tremendous benefit for his family to understand more about the Chinese culture as well.
Bluffton, Ohio’s Dan Wessner and Liz Holdeman, a married couple, taught English and did research in Vietnam during the late 1990s, as part of their work for Bluffton College.
While there, they adopted two Vietnamese children. What’s more, it didn’t stop there. Now back in the U.S., Dan and Liz regularly give talks at area schools and civic groups about Vietnamese culture, often bringing the children along. Dan and Liz’s work is bringing more international understanding on a local level, as the work of author Gen Stassen is bringing on a national level.
Photos by Joe