Sunday, March 29, 2009

Report from Capitol Hill - The Department of Peace Campaign from Maryland

On Monday, March 23, a band of intrepid citizen lobbyists from Maryland joined arms with activists from around the country and visited our elected officials to campaign for support of H.R. 808 - The Department of Peace act. We had meetings with 5 of our 8 representatives and with Senator Ben Cardin.

The first meeting - led by newcomer activist Lisa Cosgrove (Silver Spring) - was at 9 a.m. with Ken Cummings, Legislative Aide for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland District #8. (The Maryland DOP team had also met with Mr. Cummings two years ago to discuss the legislation for the 110th Congress.) Mr. Cummings listened politely but reiterated some of the standard objections to the legislation, including the cost of setting up a new bureacracy and the impression that existing government agencies are already supporting the many of the things outlined in H.R. 808. The logical response is to point out that whatever exists now isn't working. So, we will need to work with Mr. Van Hollen's office to educate them on how things need to be done differently in order to reduce violence in society. If Rep. Van Hollen isn't going to cosponsor H.R. 808, what legislation will he put forward to help reduce violence?

The second meeting - led by State Coordinator Ted Nunn (Columbia) - was at 10 am with Racquel Gallman, Legislative Aide for Rep. Elijah Cummings (no relation), MD district #7. Ms. Gallman is on a one-year fellowship from the DOD, on loan to Congressman Cumming's office in order to learn more about the Legislative branch. Rep. Cummings is already a cosponsor of H.R. 808, so our conversation with Ms. Gallman revolved more around understanding what the Congressman finds appealing about the bill (he supports any effort to empower peole to move in a positive direction, including violence reduction) and about how to market the bill to future cosponsors. She pointed out the need to make the vast array of violence statistics meaningful to the specific district - advice which helped in subsequent meetings.

The third meeting of the morning - led by District Team Leader Joyce Lang (Cheverly) - was at 11 am with Nate Tipton, Legislative Aide for Rep. Donna Edwards, newly representing MD district #4. (Rep. Edwards replaced Albert Wynn, who was a cosponsor of H.R. 808 in the 110th Congress.) The large group of visitors overwhelmed the freshman Congresswoman's small office, so we had to meet in "the halls of Congress" (literally!). Mr. Tipton listened to the information offered on the sources of violence and about the proven programs that can be put in place to reduce violence. Then he commented on how impressed the Congresswoman is with the groundswell of support for H.R. 808 from the district, pointing out that this was the fourth meeting he had taken on this topic. He pointed out that domestic violence is an important issue for Rep. Edwards, and that she believes security can be increased through peace. He indicated that Rep. Edwards is likely to come on as a co-sponsor, and that it is mostly a matter of processing the paperwork. The District 4 team will be following up in the coming months to make sure nothing gets in the way of making this happen.

The fourth meeting - led by District Team Leader Susan Owen (Annapolis) - was at 12 noon with Roy Chrobocinski, Legislative Aide for Rep. John Sarbanes from MD district #3. The DOP team laid out "a strong case" in support of H.R. 808 and Mr. Chrobocinski indicated that he would discuss the legislation with Rep. Sarbanes. Mr. Chrobocinski commented that he had seen first-hand from his own high school experience in New Jersey how teaching conflict resolution skills can help reduce violence in schools. He also pointed out that Rep. Sarbanes is a supporter of the Public Service Academy idea, which may also imply support for the National Peace Academy, a component of H.R. 808. The district team will follow up with Mr. Sarbanes' office after April 3rd, when the appropriations cycle is complete.

The fifth meeting of the day - led by activist Marsha Lehman (Union Bridge) - was at 1 pm with Annie Baker, Legislative Aide for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett from MD district #8. (Rep. Bartlett is the lone Republican in the Maryland Congressional delegation.) The DOP team focused on the economics of nonviolence, and used the story of WA state corrections success with reducing violence in prisons to demonstrate how H.R. 808 could benefit the citizens of district 6. The team also pointed out that Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (formerly from MD district #1, and a fellow Republican) supported H.R. 808 in the 110th Congress. Ms. Baker mentioned that Rep. Bartlett is looking into the Public Service Academy, and that she would discuss H.R. 808 with him.

The final meeting of the day - led by Joan Breitman (Rockville) - was at 4:30 with Anh Nguyen, Legislative Aide (Foreign Relations) for Senator Ben Cardin. Ms. Nguyen pointed out that Sen. Cardin is a strong supporter of peace and is involved with legislation to stop mass atrocities, such as the Darfur genocide. She shared her own background as a high school student in lower Montgomery county and some of the violence she experienced there. She also mentioned courses she took at UMCP in conflict resolution, so she understands the science behind H.R. 808. Ms. Nguyen pointed out that a new, separate department would be difficult to gain support for, but that the "special envoy" ("Peace Czar"?) approach might be more acceptable in the near term. She will meet with the Judiciary Aide in Senator Cardin's office to see what the best approach might be for moving these ideas forward.

Overall, it was an incredible lobbying experience for new and seasoned citizen activists alike. Special thanks to the leaders mentioned above who helped organize the meetings and to Bob Cooke, David Cockrell, Ronnie Fellerath-Lowell, and Liz-from-Baltimore.

If you haven't already done so, please send your Representative a note asking them to support H.R. 808 and the Department of Peace idea. Whether from Maryland or elsewhere, chances are there was a DOP team from your district on the Hill last Monday, and your Reps. need to know you support the idea, too!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Robert Koehler on the 2009 Department of Peace National Conference

The following excerpt is from Robert Koehler's latest on The Huffington Post - "Gold For Humanity":

"When exactly did it happen -- that "blinding flash of the obvious"?

It may have been during lunch -- outside, in a park in the nation's capital on a beautiful, cherry-blossom afternoon -- as public health theorist Ari Cowan held forth about working with maximum security prisoners in Washington state. Having described a program that treats "violent" as a temporary condition, like "has a headache," Cowan said he tells these guys, as they start to grasp the idea that they aren't scumbags and monsters, "You're the ones who will save humanity."

There were more than 400 people at the biennial Peace Alliance conference -- from 40 states, 10 countries -- to celebrate a piece of legislation: H.R. 808, a bill Dennis Kucinich originally introduced in 2001, and then in every session of Congress thereafter, to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace. But this is a movement that transcends politics and, in a sense, language itself, in that the words we use to describe "peace" embody the defeat and hopelessness of the past and thus evoke instant cynicism and dismissal.

So bear with me, please, as I try to work around such limitations. We may not know it, imprisoned as we are within our words, our politics and our media, but we already live in a world that is permeated with peace. It's not a static state:
It is growing -- sometimes in the darkest corners of human despair. And that's the message the conference unleashed, over and over again."

Check out the remainder of this post at

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 Department of Peace National Conference in DC

Set up for the 2009 DOP conference at the Hyatt Crystal City started today. Dozens of volunteers running around the hotel, getting things ready for the hundreds of attendees from around the country arriving tomorrow night. Check out the behind the scenes videos at:

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Bed-In For Peace" - How will it help?

Fellow peace blogger Pippa Bartolotti posted an invitation to her readers to join a global "Bed-In for Peace" to mark the 40th anniversary of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono event in 1969. While I applaud the spirit and intent of this type of event for raising awareness and reminding people of the need to voice their desires for peace, I don't share the optimism that these gestures will do anything substantive to make the world a better place. Below is a response from one of Pippa's readers who agrees with me:

Hi Pippa-

I don’t mean to throw a wet blanket on the bed-in idea (how uncomfortable would that be?!?) but… In the grand scheme of things, this is still simply another symbolic gesture for people to demonstrate how much they long for peaceful society. It’ll make participants feel good for a little while, may get some press coverage if it’s big enough, but will do very little to make
peace a sustainable influence in the world.

You did hit the nail on the head, however - “…peace needs to be worked for.” Staying in bed for a day may sound like “work” for some (not for me, BTW), but it’s not the same as getting out there and either a) making the world a better place - teaching conflict resolution skills to inner city youth, for example - or b)lobbying elected officials to create the Ministries and Departments of Peace that would ensure nonviolent approaches to solving problems get the funding and recongition they deserve.

In the U.S., there is an on-going national grassroots campaign led by The Peace Alliance that is working to pass legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peace. The legislation already exists - H.R. 808 - and has 66 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, but the campaign has a long way to go to make the DOP a reality. We need the people who care about this to step up and become citizen lobbyists working with Congress to get this thing done.

There are similar efforts going on in Canada, the U.K., and several other countries (see In fact there already exists a Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation in Nepal ( and the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace in the Solomon Islands.

So, change is happening. We just need people to get off the sofa, out of bed, and into their Representative’s office.

Columbia, MD

I could not have said it better myself.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

First-ever U.S. National Peace Academy Launched

CLEVELAND, OH – After decades of discussion, years of planning, and months of coordination and collaboration among hundreds of local, national, and international experts and organizations focused on the inter-related issues of peace and non-violence, plans have been formalized to establish the United States’ first National Peace Academy.

The announcement was made following a three-day summit at Case Western Reserve University, attended by more than 170 scholars, academicians, business representatives, government officials, researchers, and community leaders from around the nation and from 10 other countries.

The participants represented a broad spectrum of experts and practitioners, ranging from community-based and faith-based conflict resolution organizations to international authorities on human rights and peace initiatives under the auspices of the United Nations. Areas of specialized interest and practice ranged from domestic violence and spousal abuse to more global humanitarian issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, genocides in Darfur and Rwanda, and violence-related famines and health crises in conflict-riddled regions throughout the world.

The goal of the National Peace Academy is to support and advance a sustainable culture of peace through research, education, and real-world application. The Academy will augment and work in collaboration with the efforts of myriad existing programs and institutions, including an estimated 400 programs at universities across the U.S., aimed at enculturating concepts such as peace, social justice, and professional ethics into community-based efforts, government policies, business practices, and international diplomatic initiatives.

Dr. Shannon E. French, Director of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at CWRU, praised the organizers and participants for their commitment to...

"living the principles that they espouse, whether in their own organizations or communities or through their involvement in national and international efforts to address military conflicts, political oppression, and humanitarian crises."
The National Peace Academy’s coordinating effort will continue to be centered at Case, and its organizers will work in collaboration with learning and research institutions and peacebuilding field workers across the U.S. and worldwide. The Academy hopes to be a clearinghouse and resource center; a training institute for educators, government agencies, and community groups; and, potentially, a full-blown academic program offering undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Dr. Dorothy (Dot) Maver, Co-Director of the academy and one of the principal organizers of last week’s summit, pointed out that the practical applications of the National Peace Academy’s mission go beyond non-violence and peace-building initiatives.

"They extend into the realms of global environmental stewardship, sustainable development, and human rights-based business practices. Conflict, political and cultural animosity, social injustice, and ethical malfeasance are often the central obstacles to the implementation of strategies that can make the planet more livable, the workforce more productive, and the population more secure, healthier, and more prosperous."

Representatives of the sponsoring and participating organizations will be meeting over the next few weeks to establish a timetable for the next steps leading up to the official opening of the Academy.

Funding for the NPA is part of H.R. 808 - the Department of Peace act. Please write to your elected officials letting them know about this historical development and ask them to make funding for the DOP and the NPA a top national priority!

For additional information, check out the National Peace Academy website or contact Dot Maver.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Addicted to Force, Addicted to Failure

I wanted to share this fascinating, in-depth article from Tom Englehardt about the culture of violence in the U.S. and the tendency toward imperialism in international affairs. Tom makes several great points, including how the military makes up the lion's share of the federal discretionary budget and how the efforts of diplomacy and peacemaking get short changed. He briefly mentions the Department of Peace legislation, but mostly as an example of how good ideas don't get the attention they deserve because of our fixation on the use of force.

Check it out:
Tomgram: Addicted to Force, Addicted to Failure

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, March 8, 2009


The problem is
people think peace is boring
we have lost our imagi-
nations. We have forgotten
the fluidity of peace
how it is like all
the muscles
rippling to lift the dancer's leg,
how it is the slow
of tidal rivers
how it is clouds forming and dispersing
it is a
flock of birds turning as one
in evening sky
how it is food
laid out on
a round table
and honest struggle
between lovers and
how it
pulses in our blood
how it sings in our ears
the death of each tiny
is held secure in its arms
with the
life. We have forgotten
how boring it is to kill each other
There is much
more suspense
in peace.

- by Elizabeth Cunningham

(Special Thanks to Lynn Ellis of the Maine Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace for the guest post.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Miramar, Florida, Supports a Department of Peace

The Miramar, FL, (pop. 108,240) city commision unanimously approved a resolution in support of H.R. 808 - the Department of Peace act - at their Feb. 18th meeting. Several DOP activists and supporters spoke passionately in favor of the resolution, including Maggie Macaulay and Ana Campos. The mayor of Miramar specifically pointed out:

"...the passion of Ms. Macaulay and her fellow advocates was what swayed my opinion in favor of the cause, ... [I] love when people participate and work together."

Commissioner Winston Barnes noted one of the things he found gratifying was the bill had been around for so long, the fact that the idea was not a brand new one. Both Mayor Lori Moseley and Vice Mayor Yvonne Garth expressed their thanks to the speakers for pointing out that the DOP legislation is not specifically about U.S. war policy, but that it icludes provisions for dealing with issues of violence within the U.S. as well as abroad.

The topic of funding the new Department of Peace was also discussed at some length. Initially, the concern was raised that, especially under the current economic climate, the cost of funding a new department would be low on the priority list. However, after discussing the ecomonic benefits of addressing the root causes of violence so that we don't have to pay for the aftermath of violence, the council agreed that:

"The longer the wait, the bigger the problem will become"

The commission concluded by unanimously passing the resolution to send a letter in support of H.R. 808 to Congress. With this resolution, Miramar joins 38 other governing bodies across the U.S. - including Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles - that have formally supported of the Department of Peace legislation. These 39 entities represent over 13 million people!

This story is a great example of engaged civic activism! Congratulations to activists Maggie McCauley, Ana Campos and the rest of the South Florida DOP team for making this happen!

For more on the Department of Peace legislation visit The Peace Alliance web site. The Peace Alliance also has tips and tools for working with your own city government on a resolution in support of H.R. 808. Get active! Make Peace! Make History!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is the Issue Guns? Or Gun Violence?

One of the many cool things about Nonviolent Communication is the teaching about uncovering the un-met needs that lie beneath the surface of many heated arguments. What we often find is that underneath the fuss and fury is often a common objective; something both parties can agree on.

I suspect this may be the case with the long-standing argument over gun control, and that the highly charged exchanges are indicative of an inability to get to the underlying needs. For example, I'm thinking most gun control advocates would not really care how many guns are out there if they could be well assured that those guns don't represent any danger to them, their loved ones, or anyone else.

On the same hand, gun owners (the legal ones, anyway) are never going to argue that they have the right to harm someone for no good reason. I think that both parties can agree that we all have mutual concern for the safety of the people we care about, and the real issue is gun violence. Maybe if we shift the discussion to "gun violence reduction" we can all start pulling on the same end of the rope.

Now, I'm not going to add to the speculation about what the Framers had in mind when they crafted the second amendment. What they may have meant by "militia" or "arms". However, I think it's safe to say they had no concept of the lethal nature of today's firearms. And it would be a real stretch to say that today's network of gun owners in America looks anything like a "well regulated militia."

So, with all the controversy around the issue, I propose we drop the historical debate and figure out what we need to do to make things work under the reality that is today. What's it going to take to satisfy the needs of all sides of the debate? If non-gun owners can be assured that there will be no violence from guns, then gun owners can have their guns and not have to keep worrying that they will be taken away. What would that look like?

For starters, we need to acknowledge the true cost of gun ownership in the country, and make sure gun owners foot their share of the bill. Car owners have to have insurance to pay for the dangers of driving. Why shouldn't gun owners have to carry insurance in case their guns are used for violence? Drivers also take driving lessons and pass a safety test before they are given a license. And they have to retake the test every few years. Why shouldn't we expect the same thing from gun owners? Car owners have to renew their registration every couple of years. Why not the same thing for gun owners? That way we can be assured that we can trace gun ownership, just like cars. Yes, some guns will be stolen, just like some cars. But at least we'll have a good handle on which guns are missing and in danger of being in the wrong hands.

And take cigarettes (...Please!). Cigarettes have hefty sales taxes levied in recognition of the cost to society of dealing with the adverse health impact and to discourage smoking. Why not tax guns and ammunition sales to the level that pays for the extra police forces, medical attention and other costs of gun violence? If we accept that gun ownership is a right, let's make sure that the people who choose to own guns pay for the cost to society of exercising that right.

There's also technology to capture and track the "DNA" signature of guns and bullets. If gun owners truly have no intention of using their firearms for violence, then they should not be reluctant to submit to these controls. The only time it would be a problem for them is if they shoot somebody.

But none of these taxes and regulations really do anything to directly reduce gun violence. I'd like to see things like mandatory anger management or nonviolent conflict resolution classes required before someone can hold a gun. Prove to me that you have the skills to resolve your differences without resorting to violence, and I will feel OK about you having a gun.

Obviously, there is a lot of room for creativity here - something the proposed Department of Peace would facilitate. We just need to get past the sloganeering and grandstanding on all sides of the issue and figure out how to make it work for everyone. The sooner, the better.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Peace Symbol 2.0

Tomboys in Fishnets report on the new international symbol for peace and demonstrate nonviolent conflict resolution.

(Warning: For mature-but-juvenile audiences, only. If you turn the other way when South Park or Family Guy comes on, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT clicking this video!)

How is this new trend going to wiggle its way into the Department of Peace legislation?