World Peace Day, April 28, 1972 — Reflections on an Ever-Elusive Peace
Forty-plus years ago I was teaching at Baldwin High School, on the island of Maui. I was adviser to a student group called Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. In September of my second year teaching, two of the students, Claudia and Dawn, came to me with an idea….have a day-long celebration devoted to studying peace. We started planning then, and on April 28, 1972, we held World Peace Day. Along the way we raised money through a 9-mile Walk for Peace, lobbied the state legislature to make April 28 an official World Peace Day in Hawaii, convinced the school administration to cancel regular classes in favor of peace activities, and planned a weekend of events for PAAC groups around the state.
It was quite the undertaking, and as the adviser, I learned a lot. In the name of one of the students I wrote to our Congressional representative, Sparky Matsunaga, about being the keynote speaker — and he accepted. I lobbied the mayor’s office to get the parade permit for our Walk for Peace. Students participated in the peace walk in droves, raising $2000 (in 1972 dollars) to support activities. We lined up the mayor, the governor, pro athletes….as I reread some of the articles, I am amazed yet again at what the students accomplished.
Two major lessons: students will rise to the expectations set for them. The whole high school participated in activities that Friday, listening to speakers and attending small group activities. The PAAC group handled so many various little details, creating slide shows, hosting students and faculty members in their homes, speaking to groups, preparing materials, providing entertainment. When you have school groups coming from Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island to Maui for two days, there are a lot of little important details. They spoke to the state legislature, giving them meaningful arguments for a declaration for a World Peace Day.
The other lesson was a surprise to me, in my naivete. In 1972 we were still at war in Vietnam. I fielded phone calls saying what the students were doing was a communist plot. So many negative phone calls came about a communist plot in Peace Day. We had no hidden agendas beyond talking about the need for peace. But to many people, peace was perceived as being against the government and against the Vietnam War.
This was the beginning of my understanding just what students could do when motivated by an idea of their own. The involvement of students from the very beginning of an idea (in fact, their idea) led to ownership on their part. In the years since then, I have often asked teacher and administrative groups, as they are sharing something “new” with us, where the “student voice” is. It’s always missing, and I still get looks along the lines of, “Yeah, like the kids will really want to do that.”
But they do, and part of what is wrong with education today is that students are not really involved in major decision-making.
Yet on one sunny Friday and Saturday in April, 40-plus years ago, a group of high school students made their mark at the state and local level with World Peace Day. The following year, they followed up with an environmental conference held as a student United Nations event. PAAC members, I salute you. You did well.
Linda Lemke Moran, Baldwin High School, 1970–1973
Done the old-fashioned way, on a mimeo…..
Written by a fellow teacher at Baldwin, John Bose, a veteran of Korea.
The fine print gives the text of messages from the Congressional delegation, among others.
And the next year’s event, the Model UN Conference on the Environment:
PS — peace is still ever elusive…..