The MFS Peace Pole was installed and dedicated on April 28, 1988. Located just outside of Stokes Hall, it is a visible reminder of the establishment of the Kids for Peace Club in the 1980s and their outreach efforts to the German Democratic Republic at the height of the Cold War. Their story became international news and later resulted in the installation of a Peace Pole at MFS. On the following pages is the memoir Paper Crane, I Will Write Peace On Your Wings written by former Lower School Librarian and alumni parent Miriam Feyerherm about her experience helping a group of young MFS students “make a difference in the world.”
Paper Crane, I Will Write Peace On Your Wings
A memoir by Miriam Feyerherm
A Japanese legend holds that if a person who is ill makes a thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant that person’s wish to be well again.
Sadako Sasaki was just two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 5, 1945. Although she miraculously survived the blast, the lingering effects of the radiation gradually took her life. During her hospitalization, Sadako and her classmates faithfully folded paper cranes, six hundred forty-four in all. Sadako died October, 25, 1955, at the age of 12.
Her classmates and friends folded the remaining cranes to be buried with her. Sadako’s friends dreamed of a monument to her and all the children who were killed by the bomb. Finally, in 1958, their dream came true. A statue of Sadako was erected in Hiroshima Peace Park.
In her outstretched hands, a golden crane rests. Underneath are the words:
This is our cry
This is our prayer
Peace in the world
Kids for Peace
It all began in the fall of 1985 with a simple request from a small group of 4th graders at Moorestown Friends School. Would I be willing to meet with a few of them to talk about some issues that were of concern to them?
As the school librarian at the elementary school, I suppose I was looked upon as a neutral person and as a general rule, always did make myself available to the students who asked. How could I refuse such a request? My answer was, “Yes, of course.”
The year 1985 began Ronald Reagan’s second term as President of the United States and it was clear he was promoting a strong anti-communist philosophy and strong military buildup. Mikhail Gorbachev became a leader of the Soviet Union and the two men met for the first time. The Cold War was in the news. The 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was marked. A Greenpeace vessel was sunk in Auckland (New Zealand) Harbor. A plethora of airline crashes made the news.
More importantly, in the Moorestown Friends corner of the world, Larue Evans had moved into the position of 4th Grade Teacher and this small group of students had been under her tutelage, well taught and encouraged to ask questions and seek answers.
At the heart of Friends’ education lies the philosophy of accepting the possibility, and more strongly, the probability that the child has an innate quality of leadership. Children are honest, forgiving and secure in their power. Cynicism has not yet invaded their psyche. So, when this small group of students came to me, I looked to them to articulate their concerns and vowed to help them find solutions to their problems.
The spokesman for the group soon emerged. It was Joanna Dreby, who made the original contact and brought with her a small group of friends. It started as “Lunch in the Library” and the immediate concern that arose was in regard to Meeting for Worship. As time went on, however, their concerns continually returned to issues of peace, war, nuclear weapons, and the Cold War.
“What can we do,” they asked, “to make a difference in the world?”
When I asked them for suggestions, the first idea that surfaced was, “Let’s start a Peace Club here at school.” I was trapped, with no choice but to follow their lead. And lead they did. A name was chosen. The club was to be called Kids for Peace, and the guidelines and agenda soon followed, all as a result of their brainstorming and my recording.
By September 1986, when the original members were in 5th grade, the group solidified and added to their numbers with two 4th graders and three 6th graders. The group now numbered 17 and met regularly to consider activities.
I furnished the liaison with the administration. Judy Reed, the Lower School principal, was most supportive. Fellow “special teachers” (as they were called) Joanne Opalenick (Music) and Deb Binder (Art) quickly rallied to support me. Needless to say, all Lower School teachers allowed me ample time to meet with the group, and Ken Henke, Chester Reagan Chair for Quaker and Religious Studies, offered support and encouragement.