The child spoke: “We are fortunate to live in a very peaceful community. We know that there are children and families who are refugees, forced to leave their homes and all of their possessions to find safety from war zones. Last year we planted a peace garden and peace pole to remind us to work toward peace.
“All over the world these poles spread the same message. Please repeat this saying slowly after me: May peace prevail on Earth … May peace prevail on Earth … May peace prevail on Earth … May peace prevail on Earth. …” So began the Peace Leaders flag dedication this past Friday.
Peace Leader program coordinator and friend Toni Mertens invited me to join the celebration at the Cambria Grammar School to dedicate the new peace flags they’ve hung there. The Peace Leader Promise is hung prominently in the school office and recited every Friday at the Peace Leader rallies held in the multipurpose room. This rally was particularly special, for they honored two former teachers, founding coordinators of the program in our district, Karen Quigley and April Benham.
Quigley and Benham, Mertens, Suzanne Kennedy, myself and several other parents and staff, were in on the initial training and implementing of Peace Leaders when Dr. Dennis Embry came to share his concept for instilling the concepts of a safe and healthy environment after school violence was splashing across the media in the late 1990s. Geared toward inclusivity, understanding, speaking up respectfully, finding peaceful resolutions (sounds like something our whole country may want to embrace, eh?), I, personally, have noticed a change in school climate over the years.
Each student at the Grammar School created the new peace flags in bright and beautiful colors. Originally hung in the Youth Art Show in March at the Allied Arts gallery, they now festoon the entryway to the multipurpose room, clearly visible when anybody drives up to the front office or uses the cafeteria there. Each child had a part in the project; each child can feel part of something beautiful. We all need that.
The Peace Leaders held this rally outside, under the flags and invited musician and yoga teacher Tim Costa to bring his singing bowls and lead a peace blessing to “the school, Cambria, the Central Coast, California, to the world, all in five minutes, by all together sending out good intentions in the four directions!” Four students were invited, along with “the chief of this village, your principal, Bob Watt!” to hold the bowls in front of the crowd while he chimed them.
While his conch horn elicited peals of laughter from the children, they nonetheless embraced the newness of this type of blessing ceremony. Quigley and Benham were presented with giant Peace Leader certificates and then songs of peace by Jack Johnson and Ben Harper were played and sung along to.
I send thanks to the Coast Unified School District for ingraining these concepts of peace in our young population. Thanks to the staff and parents who have worked to find grants and hours of time to help fulfill the activities these kids come up with. Thanks to everyone who helps support by demonstrating all these tenets at home and in our community — you know the best teacher is leading by example.
I am a Cambria Peace Leader
I better my world and I better me
I honor good acts, offer help and stop harm and blame
I make amends and rejoin the game
I find trusted guides to show me the way
I strive to improve a little each day
I am proud to be a Peace Leader at school, at home, in the world and at play
(These tenets seem all the more important in today’s political climate!)
“As our flags flap in the wind, fade and weather, we hope all of you will be reminded that you can create peace within your reach. Thank you for coming to our peace flag dedication. We hope you have a happy, peaceful day.”