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Peace Education

UPF-USA Holds American Leadership Conference in Washington State

United States-2015-11-14-Holds 2015 American Leadership Conference

Washington, USA—The 2015 American Leadership Conference for Washington State was held in Federal Way, a city located between Seattle and Tacoma, on November 14, 2015. The conference, whose theme was “America at a Turning Point: Principles and Values for Building a Nation of Peace,” was organized by UPF in Washington State. Seventy-five people, including 16 youth, attended the one-day event. There were four presentations, as well as group discussions in which the attendees considered ways in which they could build peace in their communities. 

The conference began with an invocation, followed by a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States, and singing of the U.S. national anthem, which was led by Mr. Brian Granstrom. UPF secretary general for Washington State, Mr. Raymond McCready, gave the welcoming remarks, in which he spoke about UPF founders’ Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon’s vision and paradigm for peace.

The first presenter was Dr. David Burgess, former secretary general of UPF-USA, Northwest, who gave spoke on “The UPF Approach to Peace-building Based on the Principles of Peace.” Dr. Burgess emphasized that the first of the five UPF Principles of Peace states, “We are one human family created by God (the Creator),” and said that when people can recognize this bond that we have with one another, they can work through their differences and hurts. He also said that while the policies politicians formulate to address issues are important, we must recognize that the heart of and relationship between the various parties involved are more fundamental and indeed more important to solving the issue or conflict. Dr. Burgess, who travelled twice to Israel with UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative used the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an example: those most involved know what needs to happen to bring peace, but what are missing are the spirit and the will to make it happen.

The second presenter was Hon. Chad Magendanz, a state representative for the 5th legislative district of eastern King county in Washington. His spoke on “Faith, Family and Their Role in Our Elective Government.” Mr. Magendanz began speaking about oaths, in particular, several to which he has sworn in his life, including the Boy Scout Oath, the Navys’ oath (the Oath of Enlistment) and, most recently, an oath he took to commence his term as a Washington state representative. He noted that that oath makes no reference to anything that has to do with the Creator (God); it misses an important element. He then spoke about the Boy Scout Oath, which begins with the words, “On my honor…” It encourages the young person saying the oath to realize that this promise they make depends on something unseen and within them, a moral compass which they possess. Mr. Magendanz also recognized the beneficial effects developing self-discipline has had on his life, and that it has for young people. After Mr. Magendanz spoke, many of the attendees had questions for him. He gave thoughtful and detailed answers to the wide range of questions he received and, while doing so, took the opportunity to share that while he was in the military he learned to challenge himself, and said this has served him well in life after leaving the military.

The third presenter, Mr. Rizwan Samad, a local Muslim businessman, humanitarian and community activist, spoke on the topic, “Faith, Family and their Relationship to Public Service.” Before speaking on the topic of his presentation, Mr. Samad addressed the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on November 13, 2015 that killed hundreds of people and that were carried out by “Islamic terrorists.” “What those terrorists did has nothing to do with true Islam, which has clear restrictions on the killing of innocent men, women and children, even in wartime,” he said. He also said that the people who committed these acts are murderers, and should be brought to justice. Next, Mr. Samad shared how his own father responded to him when Mr. Samad, as a young man, began to question whether he himself should become a Muslim. His father created an opportunity to teach him about Islam and encouraged him to study other religions. Mr. Samad then gave a brief explanation of the five pillars of Islam. He then said he loves this nation of America so much, and appreciates the freedoms and opportunities it offers. Regarding public service, Mr. Samad said public service is about take caring of one’s neighbors. When one sees an injustice or something that needs to be addressed, one’s response should be to get involved and do something.

Afterwards, lunch was served. The fourth and final presenter was Mr. Gary Spanovich, executive director of the Wholistic Peace Institute, a research, teaching and peacemaking organization in Oregon, also known as Educating for Peace. Mr. Spanovich first recounted some of the history of the Institute and its work bringing Nobel Peace Prize laureates to speak on and become involved with peace-building activities at various schools and universities. The idea for the Institute was conceived in 1999 during planning for a visit the Dalai Lama was going to make to Oregon in May 2001. The Institute was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2001, with help from Mark O. Hatfield, a U.S. senator from Oregon. Since its inception, the organization has invited and worked with numerous Peace Prize laureates, including Lech Walesa, former President of Poland and Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica, as well as others. Mr.  Spanovich also pointed out that the Institute has worked with UPF over the years. Mr. Spanovich said the Institute believes two main steps are needed to bring compassion and healing to situations of conflict. First, those involved must work to heal their relationships with one another, and after they have done so, they can deal with the specific issues at hand. This approach coincides with what the first speaker, Dr. Burgess, spoke about: the spiritual elements are primary in solving problems between peoples.

Mr. Spanovich, who attended the conference with his wife Nancy, said that the recent focus of the Institute has been on creating “Peace Clubs” in middle schools and high schools in Oregon to help young people cultivate leadership skills and equip them with the understanding and skills to lead people who are in situations of conflict to peace. Near the end of his presentation, Mr. Spanovich led all attendees in a meditative exercise focused on the healing of hurts from the recent attacks in Paris, France.

Following Mr. Spanovich’s presentation, the attendees gathered into groups for discussion. Rather than assigning the attendees to groups, Mr. McCready suggested the attendees form groups based on the presentations they found most interesting and, as a group, consider ways in which peace can built in their communities.

Three groups were subsequently formed: one on first presentation; a second one on the second and third presentations, which had similar themes; and a third one on the development of “peace clubs” in schools in Washington State. Mrs. Emma Herron, a member of second group, came up with an idea to form an “Ambassador For Peace Legislative Advocacy Group” that could prepare a position paper and travel to Washington’s capitol during the 2016 legislative sessions to lobby the state legislature to pass bills and policies that support UPF’s Principles of Peace.

At the end of the event, many of the attendees said they thought the presentations were stimulating and informative, and that the discussions were productive and could lead to substantive developments.

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