Reflections on 2017

As I write this, I am in the midst of packing for a long planned to trip to southern Africa to visit our son. He is a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, and we haven’t seen him in nearly 18 months. We are very much looking forward to spending time with him  traveling throughout southern Africa.

Looking back over 2017, it’s been a challenging year for many working to advance a peace and social justice agenda. For Americans, there continues to be push back and resistance to an administration that continues to undermine initiatives that are at the core of our work: from undercutting environmental strategies (including pulling out of global climate change efforts), to aggravating social and race relations, to hollowing out diplomatic resources.  We’ve had to deal with events that challenge us including the violence in Charlottesville, and the mass killings in Las Vegas and near San Antonio.   And sexual harassment has been a central focus this year, with revelations of attacks against women by those in authority.

On the world stage, we continue follow closely the actions of North Korea (and the response by the U.S.); the continual humanitarian crises in Yemen, South Sudan, and Myanmar; the demise of the Islamic State; and  instability in many parts of the world.  Listing every global crisis would result – I’m afraid – in a rather long (and depressing) list.

The good news. We continue to take up our causes and do the work of peace.   We know the challenges we face, and are earnest in our convictions to thwart them. Philanthropy in the  U.S. is on the rise, global volunteerism is increasing,  and global reading levels are up.   And social activism in the U.S. has increased (particularly with young people). The challenges that we face today and continue to face are being met with important work.

For me, this past year I feel I’ve been able to contribute to the common good.  I continued to promote career awareness with youth people through my book and outreach. I  visited nearly 20 colleges in 11 states and provinces.   In June, I participated in the TedXFulbright conference.  I hosted the 5th Annual National Community College Seminar at Northern Virginia Community College in October. The Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, of which I a president, held a successful retreat in November and simulation this past March, and we look forward to our simulation in March 2018.   I authored a number of pieces in Huffington Post as well as an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun in January, and was interviewed by WBAL radio and Peace Talks Radio.  One of my highlights was working with international students in the Community College Initiative Program in November. And I continue to work one-on-one with individuals exploring career change.

Personally, I am grateful for the partnership and love of my wife, and the love of my children.

It is my sincere hope that each and everyone of you have a joyful holiday season and new year.  I look forward to working with you  in both small and large ways to make our world a more peaceful place.  Happy New Year!

Published by David J. Smith

I am conflict resolution educator, peacebuilding trainer and career coach. My professional experience has spanned the legal, think tank, international, quasi-government, and higher and secondary education sectors. I have taught at all higher education levels: community college, 4-year undergraduate (private, public, religious), graduate, and international. In 2003-2004 I was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Tartu in Estonia. From 2005 -2012 I was a senior program officer and senior manager at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington where I managed programs for colleges and universities and developed training for faculty and students. I work with all groups and educational institutions to support peacebuilding awareness.

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