Honoring the Peacemakers

The U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation (www.uspeacememorial.org). The Foundation was created to honor peacemakers by building a memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Dr. Michael Knox, the founder, says “Our society should be as proud of those who fight for alternatives to war as it is of those who fight wars.”

All across our country there are many monuments honoring the sacrifice of those who served in the military and fought in our many wars. But rarely do you find memorials for those who sacrificed to promote peace. The foundation is working to “promote a culture where our traditions and rituals not only pay tribute to those who fight for our freedom, but also honor those who exercise this freedom by seeking peaceful alternatives to war.”

You honor and reward what you truly value. A broader view of patriotic service would include all the people who have worked for peace, freedom, justice, equality and democracy. Many people sacrificed (and died) to defend and expand these ideals throughout our history. These struggles were fought in the legislatures, courts and the streets of America and not on foreign battlefields. But the peace activists have not been recognized for their service to our country. More often they have been denigrated as unpatriotic. But peace is patriotic and working for alternatives to the violence, destruction and suffering of war should be honored.

President John Kennedy once said, “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”

The proposed U.S. Peace Memorial is a long overdue “thank you” for the many people advocating better conflict resolution than war. It is a step toward changing our national culture of militarism. Honoring peacemakers sends a clear message that cooperation, negotiation, diplomacy and respect of international law are patriotic, honorable and socially acceptable activities in a democracy.

Since 2009, the Foundation has awarded the U.S. Peace Prize to recognize and honor outstanding American antiwar leaders. These courageous individuals and organizations have publicly opposed military interventions, the use of military force and threats of war in our foreign policy. The 2023 prize was awarded to the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth which works to counter misleading military recruitment in schools and the growing militarization of our schools.

The Foundation also honors ordinary Americans by publishing the U.S. Peace Registry. One doesn’t have to be a celebrity or well-known peace activist to make the list. People taking simple actions like contacting their elected officials, writing letters-to-the-editor, attending marches, or being a member of peace organizations are also honored.

One of the purposes of the Peace Registry is “normalize” working for peace and show that many ordinary people have acted to oppose war. So, don’t be shy or modest. If you have played even a small role in the peace movement, you should submit yourself for the registry.

As with every effort for good change it is citizens that must push progress from the bottom up. We can all help by supporting this effort to promote peace and create a better world.

Go to www.uspeacememorial.org to learn more and support this effort.