Peace Pole Dedication, April 29, 1988
It was truly an exciting day for each and every one of the Kids for Peace students. The whole school was involved, including Upper and Lower School students. The instrumental ensemble played, the chamber choir sang, and students from the East German Embassy school sang for everyone.
Mark McCormick also honored us with his presence, bringing with him yet another Peace Pole to give to the East German Embassy. Later, when it was determined that it would not fit in their car for the trip back to Washington, he graciously offered to send one directly to the embassy and the Kids for Peace could have the extra one to give to someone else.
The Extra Peace Pole
The Kids of Peace group now had an important decision to make. What to do with the Peace Pole that Mark McCormick had brought with him to the dedication? I informed the students that we were definitely not going to vote but rather make the decision by consensus. This made it more difficult and time-consuming, however, they seemed to understand the need for doing it this way. And as many times things like this happen, a seemingly unimportant bit of information came our way that led to an immediate decision.
Someone brought in the April 25, 1988 edition of one of the news magazines of the day, Time, which contained a story about Edward Winchester, who worked at the Pentagon and had organized the Pentagon Mediation Club, which he called SDI, or Spiritual Defense Initiative. A group of Pentagon employees met for meditation and planned other programs, particularly aimed at improving Soviet – U.S. relations. This intrigued the Kids for Peace and after many discussions, they decided to correspond with him and offer the Peace Pole. After a number of letters back and forth, on November 28, 1988, fourteen members of the Kids for Peace group boarded the school van for a trip to Washington, DC. The first stop was the East German Embassy, where the students were treated to a delicious lunch of bratwurst and sauerkraut.
We bade our East German friends farewell and headed over to the Pentagon. As we arrived, the day which had started out rainy suddenly turned sunny. We were met by Ed Winchester, who guided us through the intricate screenings and maze of hallways to the Chaplain’s Office. There the students officially presented the Peace Pole to Mr. Winchester, after which he explained the purpose of his organization and its place in the Chaplain’s Office of the Pentagon.
To some observers of this event, it probably seemed most unusual, almost ludicrous. Yet to these students, it was serious business and the many conversations that followed, on the bus and afterwards at the school, were serious debates about serious issues. Some were distressed about the photos on with the central courtyard and set to work to write letters requesting such a move. Others were simply silent on the issue, perhaps not understanding what they really felt. But a lack of enthusiasm was not characteristic of their attitudes. The walls of the Pentagon that listed the number of “kills” in certain battles. Others were consumed
Needless to say, the many letters that went back and forth between Ed Winchester and the authorities at the Pentagon regarding the placement of the pole did not result in a favorable outcome, but the students continued their appeal by writing directly to Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci. Two students, Ryan Legato and Sarah Edwards, composed letters and I furnished a cover letter explaining our plea. Secretary Carlucci responded by having his Director of Administration and Management write us a letter explaining that if they were to honor our request, they would receive numerous other offers and “in a spirit of fairness and evenhandedness to all groups, we must decline your very generous offer.”