Letters to DC: San Diego Community Implores Legislators to Make Peace a National Priority

“As a child born during the horrific times of the Vietnam War in 1969, I am all too familiar with what it is like not to experience peace or freedom and live in an era of unrest!I lived in two different Vietnamese orphanages up until age 41/2 and at age 48, I am still physically and emotionally scarred by the devastation four decades later …” said Lan E. Jefferson, Founder of All In San Diego Advocacy Group.

Leading up to the Department of Peacebuilding Campaign’s Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, San Diego students and community leaders, and a student from Los Angeles wrote heartfelt letters to members of Congress imploring them to prioritize peace and establish a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP) now.  We delivered those messages to over one hundred Representatives and Senators in October.

Students in San Diego and Los Angeles, CA, San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole, e3 Civic High School CEO Helen Griffith, Bishop George D. McKinney, All In San Diego Founder Lan E. Jefferson, Grandmother Cynthia Gilliam, and Daniel Horton asked us to deliver their message that peace is urgent.  Some of these students and community leaders also traveled to Washington, DC, and took part in the Million Youth Peace March on October 7, 2017.

When the Department of Peacebuilding Campaign visited Congress, we said to our legislators, “When our children ask, ‘Did you help create the Department of Peacebuilding?’  What will you say?”  We traveled to Washington, DC shortly after the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2) to deliver messages from the children and young people of America and their supporters that it is past time to create a culture of peace and a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding.  It is time to listen to our children and to make peace a national priority.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.”

I.  Never Experienced Peace

Lan E. Jefferson, Founder of All In San Diego Advocacy Group, wrote that as a child in Vietnam she experienced the violence of war there and that as an adult is she is still scarred by that violence.  Some of the San Diego students wrote that they have never experienced peace.  “There has not been a definite world of peace for my generation … “ (Salome Montoya)  “Violence is part of our lives …” (Jahi)  One said, “Life without peace would not last.” (Nayely Mendoza)

II.  Peace Is A Right

In her letter urging Congress to create a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding, Lan Jefferson said we always have a choice to do the right thing.  “Peace is a right for everyone!  … When I think of the right to peace, it includes having the right to both physical and emotional peace … to physically be at peace with our country, our neighbors, and among ourselves, but also to be at a peaceful state of mind … In order to live peacefully among one another and help our country prioritize (ending terrorism, shutting down gang violence, establishing friendly borders, making peace a way of life, empowering peace as a state of mind, etc.), we have to be the ones to set the climate (tone, theme, agenda, etc.) for our country of wanting and needing to be a country of peace … “

III.  About Peace – From High School Students

Students from San Diego (e3 Civic High) and Los Angeles (El Camino Charter High School) wrote:

  •  “… peace means … freedom to speak my mind.  Peace should be accessible to all people.  It’s a word that brings no violence or death.”  (Tania Lloyd)
  • “Peace is … being safe in my opinion.” (Raymond Reynoso)
  • “Peace is freedom for everyone to feel, and to have respect [for] one another to show care …” (Destiny Santos)
  • “My mother was young when she had me … had to make money in a different type of way like prostitute, she really didn’t have an education … I learned how to release my anger by writing song, rapping and poetry.  This is how I found my peace …” (Nicey G)
  • “Our lives could be better if everyone related to each other in a nonviolent way because if you think about it, most problems start because of one person being angry at something or someone …” (Daliah Nunez)
  • “Peace … This five-letter word could be the very fine line between life and death for many … Peace is a world without violent conflicts, but rather, a place where everyone is cared for, and always has what is needed and provided for.  Lives would change because greed would be eliminated, and needs would be fulfilled.” (Ruth Fariscal Adordionicio)
  •  “Peace means preventing violence … like fighting, bullying, or calling each other names or anything that has to do with making people feel bad or scared.” (Unsigned)
  • “… peace means no war, no racism and no sexism … there would be less stress and more freedom.  EVERYONE will be more relaxed and calm and fun – it’s like peace will be our high.” (Heavynn Farnum)
  • “… peace means worldwide love … if we lived in a world filled with peace, then the holocaust wouldn’t have happened, slavery wouldn’t have happened, bullying wouldn’t be a thing …” (Shefaa Abdalla)
  • “If we lived in a world without hate, I can tell you one thing for sure … the world would be such a better place.” (Melani Gutierrez)
  • “Peace … people would not have hatred in their hearts, we would be more forgiving, caring, generous, kind, understanding, loveable, positive, etc.  Peace is awesome.” (Samantha Toledano)    
  • “… peace can bring kindness, happiness and a lot of beautiful things.  Peace can make things different such as no fighting …” (Sandra Torres Hernandez)
  • Peace is the ever flowing of communication, caring, giving, understanding, forgiveness and love.” (Cierra Cloud)
  • “As long as we stop violence like killing, torture and rape from being passed on to the next generation … then the human race might still have a chance at worldwide peace.” (Unsigned)

IV.  About a Department of Peacebuilding – From High School Students

San Diego and Los Angeles high school students also wrote:

  • I have never lived in a world where the US was not at war … By empowering younger people with a pencil and not a weapon, we pave the way for advancement in science and medication … if we put aside some for a Department of Peacebuilding, then we can focus on how to help not only ourselves, but also underprivileged countries … ” (Marilees Conde-Kalmijn)
  • “The lives of my family, the lives of my friends, the life of mine … it would all be better if we could all just sit down and have a restorative circle … a Department of Peacebuilding is important to my peers and I because it will teach us how to have integrity and leadership …” (Jason Coleman Jr.)
  •  “… a department of Peacebuilding is important because they want to create peace all over the world by stopping every violent thing that is going on [in] the world today.” (Gabriel Givens)
  • “We would benefit from a dedicated department that spent its time developing and promoting peace instead of war.” (Emily Jones)
  • “People having peace is the whole point of the Department of Peacebuilding … The main point of peace is everyone not arguing, everyone understanding why violence is not the option and rather to talk about things or protest in a nonviolent way.  Peace is having the freedom of choices without being prosecuted for having your own opinion because everyone deserves a chance to be open with their thoughts and when someone has the opposite opinion, to talk about it peacefully.” (Edwin Garza)
  • “Peace is the best medicine for the hatred … I’d like to thank the Department of Peacebuilding for its hard work.” – Tia Lorennij

V.  About Peace and a DoP – From Concerned San Diego Citizens

Concerned San Diego citizens wrote:

  • About the Department of Peacebuilding, “As a grandmother, I say you have let our children down in a time like this.  We need peace not hate … This is what I call a 911 Call to Congress for our youth … we the people need you to move this into law for our youth in a Diego and for youth everywhere in this Nation …” (Cynthia Gilliam, Grandmother)
  • “I want a world with more peace, unity and acceptance … [students] were born to make a difference and to be a positive change in this world … I urged my students to celebrate all people.  That is what a Department of Peacebuilding is about.” (Helen Griffith, Ed.D., CEO at e3 High School)
  • “It is through peace that economies can flourish, communities can come and grow together, love is made stronger, minds are healed, bodies are healed, and above all, the world is made stronger … A Department of Peacebuilding will save lives, families, communities, and money.  More importantly, it is the right thing to do.” (Daniel Horton, Concerned Citizen)

VI.  About Peace and a DoP – From San Diego City Council President

San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole wrote, “During this time of divisiveness and intolerance, it is important to work for a culture of nonviolence and inclusion.  We owe this to our children and ourselves … Please support the children of San Diego and young people throughout our national by cosponsoring Department of Peacebuilding legislation.”

VII.  Encouraging Congress to Do the Work of Peace – From Bishop McKinney

Bishop George McKinney, Ph.D., D.D. wrote, “I am sending this communication in support of the initiative to establish a United States Department of Peacebuilding. I have been in ministry for 70 years and have served as the Senior Pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God In Christ for 55 years this month.  I have had a lifelong personal commitment to peaceful living and peacebuilding. As an active member of the community in which I have lived for 58 years, I am often called upon during times of turmoil and distress to be a voice for reason and peaceIt is such a rewarding work! I would like to encourage you and the other members of Congress to continue this work.” 

“An official, Cabinet-level position of Secretary of the US Department of Peacebuilding will go a long way to create an environment that chooses peace over chaos, love over hate and friendship over enemies. We certainly applaud the individual efforts of the many Americans who have made a personal commitment to peace. However, I believe now is the time to do more. The world has always looked to the United States to provide leadership in this and other areas like it. We can definitely make a difference in the world when we work together,” he said. 

VIII.  It Is Time

It is time to make peace and peacebuilding a national priority.  As one student wrote, “A US Department of Peacebuilding would assist in bringing humanity back to being human.” (Dalilah Nunez, 11th Grade)  Another said, “CONGRESS PLEASE STAY WOKE – LISTEN TO WHAT WE HAVE TO SAY” (Nicey G, 11th Grade)

Nancy Merritt
On Behalf of the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee,
Department of Peacebuilding Supporters
And the San Diego Peacebuilding Community 

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