Michael McPhearson gave remarks at the annual gala.
Making Peace Possible.
If we are going to talk about making peace possible, we must take some time to ask, what is peace? I don’t think the absence of war is peace. But abolishing war is a great place to start.
There are several other things that we know are not peaceful. People say there will always be racism, sexism, etc. That may well be true, but I do not accept that organized systems of intolerance and discrimination are inevitable. We can work to dismantle and minimize how systems of oppression impacts people lives. So, while one person or another may be prejudice, it does not mean that prejudice must limit people’s possibilities and opportunities as they do now.
Of course, there will always be conflict. Conflict is good and an important part of growth and creativity. But me must also have peaceful means and ways to manage conflict.
During the past decade, I have been told on more occasions than I can count that my Veterans For Peace t-shirt or the idea of Veterans For Peace is a great, “but” - the person goes on to explain to me why peace is not possible. I have never met anyone who does not want peace or an end to war, but I have met countless people who do not believe we can achieve it.
So, that has led me to believe that the most entrenched obstacle we face is not the Pentagon, corporations or the military industrial complex. Our greatest challenge is to help enough people believe peace is possible so that we have the political and social will to achieve it.
Thus, we who claim to be peacemakers and justice seekers must believe peace is possible. We must feel this in our hearts and know it in our minds or we will not be the most effective advocates for peace. I do not say this to imply that if you do not believe peace is possible you cannot work for peace. But I do know that most of us see ourselves as truth tellers who do not seek to manipulate people. Rather it is our hope that truth will lead to action and walking a peaceful path. So, I submit to you that if you don't believe or are not sure peace is possible, you cannot be your authentic self as an advocate for peace. It will be harder for you to see social and political connections you would see if you believed peace is possible.
Addison Paul, the 2016 Gary E. May Peace Scholarship Awardee also read her winning essay aloud.
"I was born on a cool and blustery autumn Wednesday. It may seem irrelevant or otherwise ordinary, but my birthdate has always shared its spot on the calendar with another holiday: Veteran’s Day. Each November eleventh, I celebrate not only my aging, but the significance of a greater idea rooted in history. As a child, I did not comprehend the weight of this holiday and the hope and respect that it represents for peace and those who fought for it. I was just an excited kid who never had to go to school on her birthday, but as I’ve matured and learned more about the world, I have also built a great passion for peace and kindness toward others. I believe that people must strive for global peace through patience and diligence, and that humanity’s greatest weapons for achieving this peace are education and understanding." <To Read Addison's Full Essay>