Peace Education Leader Speaks at SGI-USA Culture of Peace Lecture Series
On June 30, 2008, Betty Reardon, a 45-year veteran of the international peace education movement, spoke at the SGI-USA New York Culture Center as part of SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series. Born in 1929, Ms. Reardon wrote her first essay on peace while in the fifth grade. Among the 1000 Peace Women jointly nominated for the Nobel Prize, she was the founding director of the Peace Education Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is among the leading theorists of peace education and has used the power of words to advocate for peace and human rights, especially the rights of women. She has served as consultant to several United Nations agencies and has written extensively on peace education, human rights and women's rights.
During her lecture to an audience of some 250, Ms. Reardon quoted the mission statement of the Global Campaign for Peace Education, remarking that to achieve a culture of peace, citizens of the world must have a more global understanding of the complex problems facing humanity, develop the needed skills to resolve conflict constructively, acknowledge and live by an international standard of human rights, embrace gender and racial equality, appreciate cultural diversity and respect the integrity of the earth. She observed that for the most part, humanity is organized around producing commercial products rather than producing, sharing and integrating the knowledge necessary to help people throughout the world live a humane existence.
Sixty years ago, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognized human rights as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. Calling attention to this historic document Ms. Reardon said, "I think one of my greatest moments of learning was to be fully aware of the implications of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." She went on to say transforming a culture of social inequality to one of universal human dignity not only requires inner change of our values and attitudes, but also outer change in the social structures, most especially the patriarchal structures, customs and habits that contribute to those values and attitudes. "It requires us to interact and listen to one another," she said.
During a question and answer session, when asked about communicating to young people the message of a culture of peace, Ms. Reardon responded that we should continue to have hope and do what we can. "What maintains hope is the refusal to be cynical in the face of reality," she said, underscoring the importance of fostering that next generation. "That doesn't mean you don't accept reality, but you continue to have some sense of hope in yourself, your colleagues, the students you're working with and ultimately the community. Learning aimed at creating a culture of peace is an inquiry into the possible." She mentioned that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has demonstrated a belief in the possibility of peace, and identified capacities and areas of action to make a culture of peace a reality.
Prior to her lecture, Ms. Reardon met with a group of SGI-USA youth.
[In 2007, SGI-USA commenced the Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series to educate about one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.]
[Adapted from the July 25, 2008 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photo courtesy of Danny Sze]