Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Maine Department of Peace Activists on Capitol Hill

(Guest blog from Lynn Ellis, Maine DOP Campaign.)

On Monday, March 23 eight of us from Maine (including 4 students from University of Maine Farmington) visited our members of Congress on Capital Hill, joining others from across the country as part of the 2009 national conference for a Department of Peace. Sponsored by The Peace Alliance, 500 of us (40 states, 10 countries and 150 youth from middle, high schools and colleges of the Student Peace Alliance) joined together for the weekend of March 20-23 to hear from renowned speakers such as Challenge Day founders Yvonne & Rich Dutra-St.John, Riane Eisler, Ocean Robbins, Rita Marie Johnson of Costa Rica and many others. We heard from panelists working “on the frontlines of violence treatment and prevention” and were inspired by the courage and tenacity of these dedicated citizens.

One of the goals of the conference was to educate on the benefits and cost savings of prevention in domestic and global violence. We were also there to lobby for H.R. 808, legislation to create a cabinet level Department of Peace. Founder of the bill, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, joined us at the finale of the conference along with Congressman John Conyers and Congresswomen Eddie Bernice Johnson and Lynn Woolsey. Since the re-introduction of H.R. 808 on February 3rd, 66 co-sponsors have signed on, including Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. The photo above shows us meeting with her in the D.C. office where we offered our deep appreciation for her support of H.R. 808. When we asked Rep. Pingree why she signed on, she replied,
“I joined on as a co-sponsor for the Department of Peace legislation to understand and counter the idea that we only have armed services—the Pentagon - and to find out where these two [can] meet."
We met with Senator Collins’ and Snowe’s staff and Congressman Michaud. We had a warm reception with the Senator’s offices and there was genuine interest in our campaign. Although no promises for sponsorship in the senate, dialogue is ongoing with Senator Snowe’s office. Congressman Michaud was less receptive, telling us the bill “wasn’t going anywhere” and asked us how it was different from current legislation to deal with violence issues. We explained the need for a specific department in our government as the crisis of violence continues to escalate. We stated that whatever is in place now is not working. We shared statistics including the fact that 16 youth between the ages of 10-24 are killed daily due to gang violence and that the cost of violence domestically exceeds $300 billion.

Research in the U.S. has shown that programs that teach conflict resolution and social skills can prevent youth violence. Such proven programs can be adapted to communities in the U.S. and abroad to reduce violence worldwide (Source: Institute of Medicine, Violence Prevention in low- and middle-income countries 2008).

We’ll be starting a lobbying campaign here in Maine’s District 2 asking Congressman Michaud to reconsider. Our goal is 500 calls between April 8-May 8. If you would like to be involved in that effort, see the contact information below.

The Department of Peace bill asks for $10 billion, with 85% being used to fund programs in the U.S. that work specifically on domestic violence prevention. Co-founder and Chair Emeritus of The Peace Alliance, Marianne Williamson says, “A Department of Peace would honor the entirety of a human – our emotional, psychological and spiritual issues as well as merely our material ones. And in doing so, it would address more deeply the entirety of our problems.” This campaign is more than just the passage of a bill – it is a movement toward creating a culture of peace.

For more information on the Maine Campaign for a Department of Peace, contact Lynn Ellis, State Coordinator at lellis@mainedop.org and visit our websites at http://www.mainedop.org/ and http://www.thepeacealliance.org/

2 comments:

  1. Nice! That's me on the far left, in red. This was my first experience lobbying. After involvement in many different organizations and factions, I've discovered that the DOP is where I will focus my energy and resources. This particular "movement," encompasses not just the ideology for change, but the methods to cultivate change.

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  2. Pictures like this make me proud to be from Maine.

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