Plans Underway for 2014 National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar, Northern Virginia Community College, October 17-20, 2014

Planning continues for the 2014 National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar to be held October 17-20, 2014 at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.  The seminar is being hosted by the college’s Institute for Public Service and organized by David J. Smith, editor of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges:  A Teaching Resource. This is the second year the seminar has been held.  Last year, it was held at Montgomery College in Germantown, MD.

2013 program visiting the American Red Cross

2013 program visiting the American Red Cross

The overall objective of the seminar is to provide an opportunity for community college faculty and administrators to learn from DC and international experts, scholars, and practitioners about issues related to global conflict, violence, war, and peacebuilding.  The 4-day intensive program will allow for educators to focus on projects, activities, and curricula that they might develop and implement with their students using resources shared by NGOs, think tanks, international organizations, and government entities working on global issues.  No program of its kind exists in Washington, DC that provides an opportunity for community college educators to learn from national and international policymakers and organizations.

The agenda is a rich one (attached) and includes 2-days of visits to organizations that support peacebuilding work and awareness, and are interested in supporting community college efforts.  On Friday, 10/17, the program will spend the day at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a federally funded entity that focuses on global conflict management.  The institute building is located on the National Mall and was designed by Moshe Safdie.

Saturday  (10/18) and Sunday’s (10/19) program will be held at the college and include presentations from representatives of the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, the Student Peace Alliance, the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network, the Stanford Human Rights Education Initiative, as well as several experts talking about  specific global conflicts and peacebuilding including Colman McCarthy.

Monday’s program (10/20) will include visits to important organizations that focus on peacebuilding and global conflict: the U.S. Department of State, the Organization of American States, and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

During the weekend program, two films will be screened: Beyond the Divide, produced by Quiet Island Films, which examines the conflict and coming together of the veterans and peace communities in Missoula, MN, and Seeds of Hope, sponsored by the Pulitzer Center, which examines conflict in Africa and role of women.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for groups looking to work with community colleges on issues of global education, civic engagement, and peacebuilding.  At present, The Democracy Commitment will be a sponsor.

Registration information can be found here and closes on September 17, 2014.  For more information on registration contact Linda Rodriguez at If you have questions about the program, including sponsorship, contact David J. Smith at


PeaceCast 2014: Looking for Submissions!



By David J. Smith, July 30, 2014

PEACECAST 2014 will air its 3rd worldwide webcast on the U.N. International Day of Peace, September 21. PeaceCast would like you to be a part of it. Send videos about peace – news, music, culture, poetry, dance, animation, spoken word, public service, documentary – whatever speaks your peace. View the call for video submissions at PeaceCast Videos and visit us at Peace is real. Peace is possible.

Gandhi Memorial and Other Embassy and Diplomatic DC Peace Monuments

By David J. Smith, July 25, 2014


Gandhi Memorial

Gandhi Memorial

In two previous posts (West End National Mall Peace Monuments, June 22, 2014; Visiting Washington, DC this Summer? Visit a Peace Monument!, May 30, 2014) I discussed the numerous, and frequently under experienced, monuments, memorials, and sites to peace in Washington, DC.  As mentioned before, I recommend the work of Ted Lollis who has developed a guide to visiting peace monuments in DC and published a book on international monuments to peace.

This past week I was near Dupont Circle having coffee with a colleague and walked up Massachusetts Avenue to visit one of the most recognizable statues in Washington, that of the Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi.   The Gandhi Memorial was erected in front of the Indian Embassy in 2000 and sculpted by Gautam Pal of Calcutta.   On Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, people will often take a short pilgrimage to the site and lay bouquets of marigolds in his honor.

Besides the Indian Embassy’s monument, other international groups and embassies have dedicated peace sites in DC.  The Organization of American States’s Peace Tree at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue was planted in 1910, long before much was developed on the west end of the Mall. In addition, in a tunnel connecting the main OAS building with another building is a 200 foot mural depicting various themes of peace and development in the Americas, called “The Roots of Peace.” Arguably, the OAS itself, as a international regional organization – and the first of its kind – is a peace memorial.

The German-American Friendship Garden at Constitution Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets commemorates the 300th anniversary of German immigration to the U.S. And the International Peace Garden near the Tidal Basin consists of 4000 tulip bulbs presented to the U.S. by the Canadian government in 1991.

Often these sites are obscure and hard to identify (sometimes there isn’t much in the way of markings or signage), but look for them and celebrate the contributions of internationals in working with Americans in promoting peace.

West End National Mall Peace Monuments

By David J. Smith, June 22, 2014

West end of the National Mall

West end of the National Mall

I recently posted on the variety of peace monuments that are located in Washington, DC.  I discussed the Peace Monument found on the west side of the U.S. Capitol and east end of the National Mall.  I am indebted to Edward  W. (Ted) Lollis who has developed a guide to visiting peace monuments in DC and published a book on international monuments to peace.

Today I visited the opposite end of the National Mall – the west end – which is most notable as the location of the Lincoln Memorial. Among the range of peace oriented monuments and buildings located there is the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), which moved to this location in 2011. While I was at USIP, I remember a number of conversations with then president Richard Solomon talking about his desire to make this end of the Mall — often thought of as the “war” memorial end because the presence of the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II Memorials – as the “peace and war” end of the Mall with the arrival of USIP. There was also at the time the discussion of developing a peace themed tour of monuments and sites starting and ending with USIP. (Hopefully, USIP will soon put up a wayside sign to explain its mission and work.)

Japanese Pagoda

Japanese Pagoda

Arts of Peace "Music and Harvest"

Arts of Peace “Music and Harvest”

Besides USIP, there are several sites on the west end that would be considered peace monuments. Certainly, the war memorials there, including the Lincoln Memorial could be considered peace sites. But in addition, lesser known sites can be seen such as the Arts of Peace statue (created by James Earle Fraser, given to the U.S. by Italy  and erected in 1951) as you enter/exit Parkway Drive near the Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Japanese Pagoda, a stone statue, which was a gift from the city of Yokohama  in 1957 and located on the Tidal Basin near the FDR Memorial.

Also on the Tidal Basin is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which opened officially in 2011.  I was fortunate to be able to attend the dedication of the memorial with friends and colleagues from the Rockville (MD) Human Rights Commission.

U.S. Institute of Peace

U.S. Institute of Peace

Another recommendation is visiting the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. A significant part of this memorial is the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt who played a primary role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you are in DC this summer, consider using Lollis’ guide and seek out sites that focus on our country’s contributes to peace, justice, negotiation, and international cooperation.

35 U.S. and Canadian Community Colleges Supporting Peacebuilding Initiatives

By David J. Smith, June 18, 2014

Photo from Sault College's Peace Studies Program Webpage

Photo from Sault College’s Peace Studies Program Webpage

I recently updated my list of North American Community College Peacebuilding Programs. Currently, 35 U.S. and Canadian community colleges are supporting peacebuilding programs and initiatives.   These efforts include peace studies, conflict resolution, social justice, justice studies, human rights (including genocide and related areas), and mediation. Programs exist in 15  U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces.

A number of colleges support more than one initiative, often offering a credit based program, as well as a community education  (non-credit) or service effort such as at Howard Community College and Brookdale Community College.

Recently Kansas City Kansas Community College, Dawson College, and Green River Community College have started initiatives.

If you are involved in a peacebuilding initiative at your community college and are not listed, please contact me at

Promoting Peace, Locally and Globally

By David J. Smith,  June 17, 2014

​Lately, we have been saturated with news about violence around the world. One can’t avoid daily updates on the civil war in Syria, or the one in the making in Ukraine; sectarian violence in several places in Africa, including South Sudan and the Central African Republic; or the futile efforts to find the young girls kidnapped in Nigeria. And, of course, even with the drawdown, American men and women continue to die in Afghanistan.

Notwithstanding Steven Pinker’s thesis in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Penguin, 2011), at the moment there is plenty of brutality and angst to go around. This coming summer could be a violent one.

As classes take a hiatus, those of us who focus on raising the awareness levels of students about the world around them might wonder whether they are following events happening in far corners of the planet. Once classes resume, many educators will ask the proverbial question, “What happened in the world this past summer?”

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that our students’ answers will live up to our expectations. Though there are exceptions, many of our students are woefully uniformed when it comes to global conflict. They would have a hard time locating Ukraine, much less the Central African Republic, on a map. Those students who are aware and can engage in an informed conversation tend to be older students or students who have a vested interest in international issues: military students who have served in conflict zones, or students who are from countries that have been impacted by conflict.

With this dire assessment, there is a consolation. It is one thing to claim that students are not aware of global conflict and violence, but quite another to say that students are not aware of violence and conflict at all. While they might view global events removed from their daily lives and show little interest, conflict does impact their lives and many are acutely aware of the effects of conflict. Students in community colleges are often dealing with personal conflict such as family disputes, criminal altercations, bullying and workplace clashes. Locally based violent conflict can be caused by a range of sources, including mental instability. The recent acts of violence at the University of California, Santa Barbara, were perpetrated by a student who was suffering from mental disabilities and was enrolled at Santa Barbara City College.

Understanding conflict is presented in two ways. The first is by discovering the broader world we operate in, and as such learning how to engage as civically minded citizens. The second is by honing skills and aptitudes that better prepare us for a life of differences, diversity and constant change.

Our mission as educators is to promote both aspects. Too often we segregate global awareness from the more personal and domestic skill development. But they support each other, and raising the understanding of one will enhance the other. Students, who learn about nonviolent struggle in parts of the world, will come to recognize that they can engage in peaceful change at home, and that a response to conflict that is based in dialogue and political participation will serve them well.

Students who come to appreciate their own abilities to make peace between friends can learn to understand the role that internationals play in brokering the end of violent conflict through international mediation and reconciliation efforts, as was the case in Northern Ireland. The challenge is to harness what students know about their “local” world and use it to raise awareness of their “global” world.

It helps to know our students well. Knowing their personal experiences – be they tragic or empowering – will provide us with fodder that we can use to show how their own local situations and personal skills can help them in understanding the global environment. In communities that are culturally and ethnically diverse, this can easily be facilitated. Conflict between students of different cultural backgrounds (which could be gang related), could be the catalyst to understanding conflicts in far off homelands. Animosity between college Pakistani and Indian students or Jewish and Muslim students can provide an educator with the opportunity to explore conflicts in Asia or in the Middle East. We just need to help them make the connection.

Smith is a consultant formerly with the U.S. Institute of Peace and editor of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource (USIP Press, 2013).

This piece was originally published in Community College Daily on June 12, 2014.  It is republished here with permission.