History of the Peace Pole: Endings or Beginnings?

Kids for Peace Reach Out

By now, the Kids for Peace group was an entirely new group.  The original members had moved on to Middle School and the new 4th and 5th graders were forging ahead.  They were still concerned about the placement of the Peace Pole at the Pentagon, but my concern was to present them with alternative activities.

A “Going Home” project in El Salvador resulted in a visit from Miguel, a young boy who was brought to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital to be operated on for war wounds.  His visit to Moorestown Friends made an impression on the students and they found ways to make money for the project.  They quickly adopted the idea of a Peace Symposium involving all of the South Jersey Friends Schools, planned the production of a tape of peace songs with the help of Music Teacher Joanne Opalenick, and started working on folding another 1000 paper cranes.  A small group involved themselves in producing a play based on the children’s book The Tears of the Dragon, which was presented at a Friends gathering.

I also encouraged them to begin the process of communicating with the local district’s Congressman, then H. James Saxton, who then made sure to inform us of any activity he deemed to be in the category of “peacekeeping.”  One letter told us of President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF (International Nuclear Force) Treaty, even outlining the treaty’s basic components.  Other letters followed, so that when I read in the paper that he was meeting constituents at the Mt. Laurel Library on a given Saturday, I told the group about it and (very naively) asked if any would want to go and talk to him.  I was reasonably sure I would get no takers but two plucky students responded and furnished their parents’ written permission, so I was committed to taking them.

The events of that meeting are still clear in my memory.  Aadil Ginwala, a 5th grader, expressed his interest in telling Representative Saxton about the Peace Pole at the Pentagon and the letter he had written to the Secretary of Defense Cheney, requesting placement of the Peace Pole in the Pentagon’s central courtyard.  He took the letter, showed it to Mr. Saxton, and with the ease of a polished politician, read it to him.  When Representative Saxton turned the letter around toward Aadil, the young student assured him that he was able to read upside down.

Endings or Beginnings?

Here ends my part of the tale.  Others carried on, and the Kids for Peace continued after my retirement from Moorestown Friends in the spring of 1989.

One last event deserves to be mentioned:  In April 1989, I received a letter from the German Democratic Republic Permanent Mission to the United Nations, requesting that a group of teachers and kindergarten nurses from their school be allowed to visit our school.  That event took place on April 21 and was yet another tie to our German friends.

On and on, the activities move.  They may seem small and insignificant but the ripples move out, the children grow into young adults – and then?  Pray that they will keep this enthusiasm and continue to trust in the efficacy of their actions.

Friends Schools play a most important part in living intently, with the conviction that all people must be seekers of the truth, learning day by day to live as full human beings.

Gandhi’s words give us inspiration: “Whatever you do for peace may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it”.

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