Friday, October 30, 2009

Bobbie Gottschalk and Seeds of Peace at USF

Well this has been a frustrating week and an inspiring week. This week our school played host to a very special guest, Barbara “Bobbie” Gottschalk. She is one of the founding members of Seeds for Peace. The inspiring part is simply her life and impact. The frustrating part was that I never got to meet her, our schedules simply did not allow for it. However, I talked to colleagues who had her speak in their classes, who went out to dinner with her or attended her public talks. I spoke with students who were inspired by her. I did show video about her and the project in two of my classes.

So, while it was a personal frustration for me I am so happy that she was our guest for a week.

"Bobbie Gottschalk & Seeds of Peace"

Bobbie’s story is not the least bit ordinary other than she is a regular person, not a head of state, a writer or rock star who is changing the world by her determination. She is changing the world the only way she knows how, person-to-person. As Bobbie says, “Treaties are made by nations, peace is made by people.”

In 1993 she was approached by her friend, a journalist named John Wallach about joining him in a radical project. He had seen to much violence and sorrow while covering the conflicts of the Middle East. He wanted to create a program that taught young people from the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict to resolve conflict peacefully. From this Seeds of Peace was born.

From the conversation grew a dream that has affected thousands of lives. Seeds of Peace has a summer camp in Maine that brings Palestinians and Israelis together. They learn to work and cooperate together. They learn to see one another as people, they learn to value one another. The success has also meant that programs that help them fit back into their societies had to be created.

Because the programs have been effective more people requested assistance. The result is that Seeds of Peace have participants from the U.S., Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Cyprus. The program involves educators, journalist, anyone who wants to actively work for peace can find a way to contribute to Seeds for Peace.

Seeds of Peace has become a role model of NGO conflict resolution. Its advisory board reflects its growing international reputation. The board includes, former American Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Shimon Peres of Israel and Palestinian Dr. Sa'eb Erekat .

Many people on campus felt a connection with Bobbie. The members of JustPeace were greatly inspired. Members of the Franciscan Family saw Ms Gottschalk doing the work peace-makers are called to do. Many of us in the behavioral sciences were proud to see she started out as a clinical social worker and school counselor. It was however difficult to listen to her and not feel called to personally do more in the cause of peace-making. So, to Dr. Matt Smith and all of those responsible for bringing this real life hero to the University of St. Francis, thank you.

The Path to Peace and Change


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