THE PEACE JAM PROGRAM
(KUNM Airdate: 3/25/05)
"Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams,
The one they picks, the one you'll know by."
--Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (1970)
Each December 10, on the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Peace Prize is presented to an individual who has exhibited an extraordinary commitment to Peace. What would happen if some of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates spend up close and personal time with teenagers around the world? That's what happens in a program called Peace Jam which is our focus on this edition of Peace Talks.
Peace Jam (www.peacejam.org) is an international education program that engages Nobel Peace laureates to work personally with youth as a means of passing along their spirit, skills, and wisdom. The goal of Peace Jam is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers to transform their local communities, themselves, and their world. Teacher Karey Thorne, who coordinates New Mexico's Peace Jam activities, is featured on the program along with two student participants: Pearl Williamson and Ry Parker. Interim Peace Talks host Carol Boss conducts the interview. The attitudes embodied by these young people (and Peace Jam) gives hope for our future.
The 2005 Peace Jam Youth Conference in New Mexico is to be held April 16 and 17 and includes a public talk Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at Santa Fe's Lensic Theatre. Democracy Now Host Amy Goodman will be in conversation with 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta. For ticket information call the Lensic at 505-988-1234.
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(transcription courtesy Rogi Riverstone)
Karey, I was wondering if you can think of a particular meeting or encounter between a peace laureate and a young person that really stands out for you, that you might want to share, that keeps you doing this work.
KAREY THORNE: The first time I took kids to Peace Jam, I went to see Desmond Tutu. And I took up a really unbalanced group of kids. I had a couple who were suicidal. I had a couple who were wearing dog collars and the hair was going in every direction. And we went to Denver. My kids were from Santa Fe, and they felt very out-of-place, walking into Denver, which was very conservative: everybody kind of looked the same. And here, they really stood out. And they were not balanced. They, honestly, were in some tough places.
Each day, the presentation is different, depending on the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Desmond Tutu happens to be an Anglican Bishop. So, his presentation was, basically, a church service - kind of like a church service. Basically, he had people singing. So, I look out at my group, who were pretty raw-looking. And he's got them singing, in a round, "this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine." And they were like three-year olds. They were having the best time. And they were so excited. And they were so touched by the simple elegance of this man. He had them all stand up and say, "I am a very special person!" It was a very simple, gentle way of dealing with this group of three hundred teenagers. They came away absolutely in a state of ecstasy. One girl said, "I want to marry Desmond Tutu!" He's an eighty-year-old man! "I've never met anybody like that before!" I thought, wow! This works! They totally reversed where they were. And, by the time we were driving home, they were saying, "this is great!" and "we felt received!"
It was an amazing experience, watching kids coming from such different places, finding the unity with each other. They could overcome those places of separation they were finding inside themselves.
What does it mean to be a peacemaker, Pearl?
And, Ry, what about you? What have
you learned about peacemaking? What do you think it means to be a peacemaker?
Is it, for you, more about thinking about others than yourself?
PARKER: Yeah, it is more
about caring for others. But, at the same time, doing well for yourself.
Because, in order to be taking care of others, you have to take care
of yourself, as well: try to get into the right mind state. That's what
this class has helped me to do. I was doing a lot of things, back in
my junior year, that I shouldn't have been doing. I come from a town,
up north, called Espanola. And you can get caught into a lot of stuff:
drugs, sex, violence. This class has helped bring out a truer side of
KAREY THORNE: I think what we look at is how do we become more of what our essence is, rather than getting caught out in the behaviors and the judgments and the craziness of the world. A lot of what happens in this classroom becomes a very internal question, as well as an external question. We're always going back and forth. How do we touch that deeper essence? How do we find that inside of each person? And as we do that people tend to come to a deeper state of peace.
PEARL WILLIAMSON: The program teaches people how to care by Karey caring about her students. I think the only way to learn how to care for people is to be cared for by others. I think that's what this program is really all about. Jody Williams, a Nobel Peace Laureate, when she gave her speech two years ago, it was a room, filled with three hundred people, and half of them were crying. Teenagers, generally, try not to cry in public, because we don't want to be embarrassed. She'd just been arrested, like the week before, for a protest she had done. She was talking about how it was something she had to do. Once you start doing service for others, it's something you have to keep doing. Once you are informed that you can help others, and that it's the right thing to do, you can't stop doing it. It's what you have to do. It kind of gets in your blood. If you don't do it, you don't feel alive. I think that's the inspiration that's motivated me in the program. You can see it. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureates come every year. And, each one, you can see it: they have to do it. It's part of their lives, part of who they are. If they don't do it, they aren't really letting themselves be who they are. This program does the same thing. It shows you how you can change, how you can create peace in your own life. If you can create peace within yourself, you can create peace within the community. You can create peace within the world. Once you start doing that, you can't stop.
Ry, I want to ask you about inspiration. It sounds, from what you've told us so far, that this really has brought some changes in your life. There has been some transformation for you.
RY PARKER: Well, as Pearl said, one of the main inspirations for me comes from the teacher, herself, Miss Karey Thorn. When you do have a teacher who cares about her students, then it brings it out of yourself, to care for the others around you. It's kind of funny. At the beginning of the semester, I used to try to push away from Miss Thorn, just because I'm kind of a private person, myself. But, no matter what I did, she was still there. And she still cared. I was puzzled by that: "Why is this person still doing this? Why is this person still trying to reach out to me? I just want to do my own thing." Of course, Miss Thorn has inspired this. Rigoberto Manchu, when I saw her at the conference, and when I researched about her, we learned about her life stories and her past. She inspired me. To be able to look at this little, old lady who has gone through so much! There are so many tragic events, throughout her life. And to still stand up on stage with her and about three, four hundred kids and smile, still be happy to be alive. It's quite an amazing thing, to be able to see something like that.
WEBSITES AND OTHER RESOURCES
EMAIL KAREY THORNE ABOUT PEACE JAM NEW MEXICO AT firstname.lastname@example.org