Workshop and Symposia

Former Soldier Gives SGI-USA Culture of Peace Lecture

Mr. Paul Chappell
Mr. Paul Chappell

On January 15, Paul Chappell, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York and author of the book Will War Ever End? A Soldier's Vision of Peace for the 21st Century, spoke as part of the Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series at the SGI-USA Culture of Peace Resource Center in Santa Monica, California.

As a child, Mr. Chappell witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of war on his family. His father, who had fought in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars developed post-traumatic stress disorder, which caused him to lash out violently toward his family. Through this painful experience, Mr. Chappell chose to become a fighter for peace and to study the effects of war to better understand what happened to his father.

Mr. Chappell served in the U.S. Army for seven years and in 2006 was deployed to Iraq. He left active duty in November 2009 with the rank of captain. Today, he serves as the peace leadership director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara, California.

In his talk Mr. Chappell posed the question: "So why did I join the military?" He answered, "Because I wanted to make the world a better place by understanding why war happens." Mr. Chappell went on to say that waging peace takes many of the same skills as waging war: training, courage, solidarity, unity, leadership and discipline. But the fundamental difference between war and peace, he continued, is that war is founded on dehumanization and violence, while peace is founded on creativity, dialogue and respect.

He also stated, "[Mahatma] Gandhi was able to defeat the greatest empire on earth without firing a single bullet," and continued that this was "because he displayed the greatest strategic method: the ability to turn an enemy into a friend."

Mr. Chappell emphasized that waging peace must be an active process in which each person takes responsibility for finding common ground with others and building mutual understanding through sincere dialogue. "Right now our democracy is stronger than it was 200 years ago, but it's still not strong enough," he said. "For the sake of our collective future, we each need to practice waging peace in our own lives.

The SGI-USA speakers series commenced in 2007, with lecturers focusing on one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. The series aims to foster a culture that rejects violence and addresses the root causes of conflict through the power of dialogue.

[Adapted from an article in the January 28, 2011, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photo courtesy of Edward Chen]

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