On Friday, Jan. 20, the Park University board of trustees approved the establishment of a Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. The mission of the center will be to "promote the concepts of peace and peace journalism, including advocating non-violent conflict resolution, through seminars and courses both in the U.S. and abroad, through its website and magazine, and through partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals."
Of course, there are a million details to be ironed out, including those concerning the official launch date, launch event/speaker(s), CGPJ magazine, partner institutions, fundraising, website/promotions, programming, etc.
Of the congratulatory messages I received, the most eloquent was from my colleague and friend Prof. John Lofflin, who wrote that the center will help define our role as educators. He said part of this role includes being in the "Peace Business".
To illustrate, Lofflin wrote, "Something happens every year in my feature writing class. The first time it happened, maybe 15 years ago, it took me by surprise, and I was really embarrassed. Now, I kind of expect it. I've had to learn not to be embarrassed by it. We usually read sections from "Blue Highways" in that class. At the close, Least Heat Moon writes something like this. "In a season on the blue roads, what had I accomplished? I hadn't sailed the Atlantic in a washtub, or crossed the Gobi by goat car, or bicycled to Cape Horn. In my own country, I had gone out, had met, had shared. I had stood at witness."
When I read that I tear up. Every time.
Emphasis on the word witness... not in the Baptist sense of witnessing but in the sense of seeing, being there, experiencing. And what did Least Heat Moon experience? The people. And what did he do with what he witnessed? He wrote about it... about them. He brought their stories to everyone else. True stories. Authentic stories. Not stories about the rich and famous. Stories about the people you would walk past on the sidewalk and never notice. And, I suggest to the students, what does that do? If you know them, if you "experience" them, it is harder to hate them and even harder to kill them. It is an act of peace-making.
So, a career like mine writing about people, thousands of people, telling their stories, is an act of peace making. It's a career choice I highly recommend to people who are not too jaded to actually believe we can make peace, some form of it, some bit of it, in our own world."
Once the Center for Global Peace Journalism opens up, I may engrave Professor Lofflin's wisdom on a plaque and put in on the door.
--Follow me on Twitter @PeaceJourn-- or on my blog-- http://stevenyoungblood.blogspot.com