Peace, Love and California Community Colleges

By David J. Smith, November 19, 2015


The past three days I have been visiting colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as talking with leaders at the Community College League of California Conference.


Today, I spoke to about 20 attendees at a pre-conference session sponsored by California Colleges for International Education (CCIE).   Rosalind Raby is the executive director, and she invited me to talk with leaders about my work in peacebuilding.  I have long appreciated the work of CCIE in promoting global education with 2-year schools in California, as well as promoting the peacebuilding efforts I have been involved in.  The morning consisted of a number of presentations on study abroad, working with international students, and my talk where I emphasized the need to raise awareness of global issues with community college students, offer means for students to engage with each other, and promote ‘soft skills’ that will assist them personally and professionally.

The overall conference that followed was aptly titled “Peace, Love and California Community Colleges.”

In addition, I had the chance to visit the College of Alameda (COA) and Solano Community College (SCC).  At COA I was hosted by the Center for Community Change and Urban Leadership. There, I shared with students approaches to considering peace notions and ways to frame conflict.   At SCC, I was part of the college’s 10th Annual Peace Week, and was hosted by the Umoja program, designed to assist minority students. I spoke with both faculty and students on peacebuilding and conflict resolution approaches. This was my third visit to Solano.



Fulbright Association 38th Annual Conference: Creating Pathways to Peace

By David J. Smith, November 15, 2015


The 38th Annual Fulbright Assocation (FA) Conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 12-14. Founded in 1977, FA is the official alumni association for those who have participated in the Fulbright Program. About 200 individuals attended the meeting.

This year’s theme was “Creating Pathways to Peace.”  It featured five core impact areas: economic development and entrepreneurship, global health, international education, peace-making and conflict resolution, and sustainability.  During the conference, attendees interested in these various impact areas met to brainstorm and consider programs and initiatives that could be undertaken.

I was asked to convene the peace-making and conflict resolution group.  About ten of us met during lunch on 11/13 to consider what we might focus on related to peace-making and conflict resolution.  I suggested to the group that we consider “peacebuilding” as a more apt approach to considering peace.   Within a few weeks, our group will consider a vision, strategies, and identify allies that might support our work.

Mike Gallagher

Mike Gallagher

That afternoon, I moderated a panel for a session titled “Sustaining the Fulbright Peace Dividend” which looked at ways to continue to promote peace through our experiences as Fulbrighters.   The panel included Mike Gallagher, who teaches at Heritage High School in Littleton, CO and works in Turkey during the symmer as a teacher trainer for Planet ELT and Hillside Press.   He presented on “The Smiling Face of Islam or ‘Religious Pluralism.'”  Marcia Rosal from Florida State University shared her experiences developing an art therapy program designed to deal with trauma.  Her presentation was titled “Art for Life: Art Therapists Respond to Disaster Events.” Finally, Kim Kronenberg talked about the STEP-GTP program.   She is associate director of the Science Training Encouraging Peace – Graduate Training Program which works with Israeli and Palestinian professionals.    A number of other sessions during the program focused on peace-making themes.

Marcia Rosal

Marcia Rosal

Kim Kronenberg

Kim Kronenberg

A Visit from Westboro Baptist Church and a Learning Opportunity

By David J. Smith, November 11, 2015

Yesterday, November 10,  my daughter’s high school, Rockville High School  in Montgomery County, MD, was visited by Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).   Since the early 1990s this Topeka, KS based fundamentalist group has focused on protests at schools and military funerals. Their message is anti-soldier, anti-gay, and anti-other faiths. The Southern Poverty Law Center claims that the church is “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America. Typified by its slogan, ‘God Hates Fags,’  WBC is known for its harsh anti-gay beliefs and the crude signs its members carry at their frequent protests.”   WBC members frequently make visits to the DC area. On this visit they also protested at another high school, Winston Churchill High School, and were bound for Arlington National Cemetary (likely because of Veterans Day).

Students were asked to commit to tolerance

Students were asked to commit to tolerance

The principal at Rockville High School urged an approach that is increasingly used with WBC: ignore them.  The belief is that by engaging with the group, media attention is attracted, which is what the group seeks.   As such, students (and parents) were asked to proceed yesterday as if it were a normal school day. However, inside the school students were urged to wear school colors – orange and black – and treat the day as a “unity day.”   A large sheet of paper was placed in a hallway were students could “Agree to Be Tolerant” and students signed pledges to support diversity.

As a parent as well as a peacebuilding educator, I offered to come into the school and speak with students on social justice issues and peacebuilding.   I was invited to speak with International Baccalaureate classes, a social studies class, and the staff of the student newspaper, the Rampage (which has published a piece on the Westboro visit).

Rockville residents and clergy counterprotest

Rockville residents and clergy counterprotest

Though no one wishes to have a group like Westboro Baptist Church visit and have their children exposed to their message, their presence does present an important opportunity to explore issues that are at times overlooked or, if covered, are considered in a theoretical way.   Though we have issues of injustice and racism facing our country (e.g., Ferguson, Baltimore), many students today are sheltered from hate symbols and individuals who profess ideology that is extreme by most standards.   In the Rockville community, values of tolerance, appreciation for diversity, and sensitivity to social justice permeate. I serve on the city’s human rights commission, and we work hard to make our city a welcoming community for all.  But, unfortunately, this is not the case in other parts of the U.S.   Living in the “bubble” that is Washington, DC, has both advantages and disadvantages.   As such, the church’s visit provided an opportunity to engage students in a conversation on issues that might seem often far removed, but this morning, where just outside their school building.

Westboro Baptist Church member

Westboro Baptist Church members

With students, I first explored notions of peace and conflict.   I spent time considering the various ways that we consider peace: both as means and ends, and that often these views can come in conflict, such as when peace activists rally around the peace sign, and soldiers rally around the U.S. flag, arguing that it too is a sign of peace.  Pope Paul IV’s  quote “if you want peace, work for justice” allowed me to move into a discussion on social justice.  We talked about what justice means in our society, looking at an image of Rosa Parks; signs that discriminate against Latinos, blacks and gays; and photos of KKK rallies, including one that took place in Rockville in 1982.   We then moved to examining protest for change, starting with looking at the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and what is addresses, especially the notion of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”   We then considered the value of protest and what we individually can do. As a final exercise, I had students develop their own “protest signs” that would speak to their passion.   I urged students to continue the conversation with their friends, and particularly, their family at that evening’s dinner table.  Today’s visit by WBC, provided an excellent opportunity for students to talk with parents about values of tolerance, social justice, and peace.

If you hear that Westboro Baptist Church is planning a visit, I would recommend looking at it as a learning opportunity for students.  Some will protest, which is important.  But others will shy away, sometimes confused by the messages.  These students in particular can benefit from an opportunity to explore issues of social justice and peace.

Kansas City Colleges Peacebuilding Conference Demonstrates the Power of Higher Education Collaboration

By David J. Smith, November 2, 2015

October 30-31, 2015 the 3rd Annual Peacebuilding Conference “Teaching Peace: Education as an Essential Peacebuilding Tool”  was sponsored by three Kansas City area colleges: Johnson Teaching PeaceCounty Community College, Park University, and Rockhurst University.   Medical Missions Foundation was also a co-sponsor.   The first day of the conference was held at Park University in Parkville, Missouri, and the second day at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas.

The conference drew an audience that included over 100 students, faculty, and members of the general public from the greater Kansas City area. Large student groups where in attendance from Johnson County Community College, Park University, and Rockhurst University.

Tom Patterson, David Smith, Steve Youngblood

Tom Patterson, David Smith, Steve Youngblood

Jamil Simon

Jamil Simon

The program on Friday, 10/30, included presentations on “Promoting Peace Through Education” by Judi Estes of Park University, “Using Comparative Philosophy to Teach and Promote Peace” by Dawn Gale of JCCC, “Teaching Empathy and Promoting Peace Through Exploration of a Unique Refugee Experience: Post-War Germany” by Gary Bachman of Park University,  and “Using the Arts to Inspire Activism and Peacemaking” by Ira Harritt of the American Friends Service Committee.  I had the honor of providing reflections on the presentations.

Students presenting from Park's Global Peace Journalism Program

Presenting on Park’s Global Peace Journalism Program

For the second day, 10/31,  Joe Sopcich, president of JCCC welcomed the group, and Bill Kriege of Rockhust University served as the day’s moderator.   Jamil Simon of Spectrum Media participated via Skype and shared about his upcoming film “Fragile Island of Peace.” This was followed by my keynote presentation: “Peacebuilding and Education: A Critical Nexus to Ensuring 21st Century Prosperity, Engagement, and a Better World.”  Other morning presentations included physician Archie Heddings talking about his work with Medical Missions in Romania, Bonnie Alsbury of Park University presenting on the alternative spring break program she runs for nursing students, and students Michael Dean and Taylor Miller from Park University sharing their experiences Turkey as part of the Global Peace Journalism Project they worked on under the direction of Steve Youngblood.

Rockhurst U. students

Rockhurst U. students

In the afternoon, Abigail Hayo, founder of The Sirabo School Village talked about the program’s efforts in Mali; Brian Wright of the UN Association of Kansas City shared about UN efforts; Pamela Hawkins presented on her efforts at creating peace through art; Letitia Harman presented on the SEMA program and its impact on women’s education; and JCCC and Rockhurst nursing students shared about their experiences in Uganda.  I also presented a session on careers in the field.   Afternoon reflections were led by Bill Kriege from Rockhurst University.

Archie Heddings

Archie Heddings

The 2-day program demonstrated how several institutions working with private groups can work together to advance areawide peacebuilding efforts.   During the conference community college students and faculty where able to collaborate with their counterparts from private 4-year universities.  In this way, each partner brings to the table their unique assets and talents that can be used to promote a larger effort.  Long term, a comprehensive Kansas City area peacebuilding resource center is planned.

If you are interested in next year’s conference or working with these institutions on peacebuilding contact Tom Patterson at Johnson County Community College (, Steve Youngblood at Park University ( or Bill Kriege at Rockhurst University (


People’s World Peace Project and Community Colleges

By: David J. Smith, October 29, 2015

My colleague Joseph de Rivera, who directed the peace studies program at Clark University, is looking to connect with community colleges. He is involved in the People’s World Peace Project. He wrote:

            The web site is trying to cultivate the global community we need for a culture of peace. The site features solutions-oriented news from over a hundred excellent NGOs, but also has a tab for peace resources with summaries of tools for nonviolent action, negotiation, government, and personal transformation.  There is a “Share your thoughts” tab which allows for comments on the posted news and I think that submitting a comment might be an interesting writing assignment for students in peace studies classes.  Would you please take a look at and give me suggestions for student involvement?

If you are interested in more information, contact him at

William J. Kreidler Award for Distinguished Service to the field of Conflict Resolution

I was honored at the recent annual conference of the Association for Conflict Resolution  (ACR) in Reno, Nevada to be given the 2015 William Kreidler Award for Distinguished Service to the field of Conflict Resolution. The award is given by the education section of ACR.  More about the award can be found here.  The award was made on October 7, 2015.