Mother’s Day was originally a call for a day of peace by Julia Ward Howe after she nursed and tended the wounded during the American civil war and worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both side of the war. The Peace Alliance (TPA) made Mother’s Day a call for our nation to prioritize peacebuilding by establishing a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding and by practicing peace in our personal lives, the community, schools, a more humane justice system, and internationally. This is a long-time and favorite TPA action which many legislative staffers welcome.
During an extended 2017 Mother’s Day celebration, we advocated for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding and other peacebuilding initiatives with legislators throughout the country with Mother’s Day “Peace wants a piece of the federal budget pie” meetings, letters and pie drop-offs with members of Congress and Senators in at least CA, GA, IL, MA, ME and OH.
DoP and peacebuilding advocates, and partner groups such as San Diego Kids for Peace, a middle school principal, and affiliates of the Metta Center for Nonviolence in Petaluma, CA, met with the staffs and/or the legislators:
- CA advocates met in Oakland, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma with the offices of Rep. Salud Carbajal (D), in-person meeting with Rep. Susan Davis (D), Sen. Kamala Harris (D), Rep. Jared Huffman (D), Rep. Barbara Lee (D), Rep. Scott Peters (D) and Rep. Juan Vargas (D)
- GA advocates met in Atlanta with the offices of Rep. Hank Johnson (D), Rep. John Lewis (D) and Sen. David Perdue (R)
- IL advocates met with the offices of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D)
- MA advocates met with staffers of Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D)
- ME advocate wrote to Sen. Angus King, Jr. (I) and received a detailed reply about DoP
- OH advocates met with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rep. Warren Davidson (R)
To get a flavor (mostly apple, cherry, pecan and homemade strawberry) of the pie encounters, see details about the meetings. Photos with this article include a meeting with 1) Rep. Susan Davis (CA), and meetings with the offices of 2) Rep. Barbara Lee (CA), 3) Rep. Hank Johnson (GA), and 4) Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH).
1. California Advocacy/ Oakland – Rep. Barbara Lee (D)
What can you say when a member of Congress has been such a long-time peace advocate and proponent of peacebuilding?
We have been taking Mother’s Day pies to Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office for many years now. Congresswoman Lee is the sponsor of the Department of Peacebuilding legislation. She represents CD-13, including Oakland and Berkeley, one of the most progressive districts in the country (if not the most progressive). Her campaign slogan is “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me.”
Celebration. Since our meeting on 7/7/17 (the day after the Dalai Lama’s birthday and a few days before the Congresswoman’s birthday) was a bit past Mother’s Day, we used the occasion to also celebrate a victory. On 6/29/17, Congresswoman Lee’s amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was passed by the House Appropriations Committee. This bipartisan vote “is huge. Sixteen years ago Barbara was the lone vote against the AUMF, and since that time she has been working to repeal this overly broad war authorization that gives any president unlimited authority to wage war,” according to the Congresswoman’s announcement of 6/30/17. One member of Congress said, “I was going to vote no, but … I’m going to be with you on this, and your tenacity has come through.” It is the duty of Congress to debate and vote on matters of war and peace. All but one Republican voted for the repeal. At the time of the "pie" meeting, this still had to go through the House and the Senate, but there had finally been some bipartisan movement on the issue.
Roadblocks. Then, within two weeks, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) stripped the AUMF repeal amendment from the Appropriations bill in the middle of the night without even bringing it up for a vote. Congresswoman Lee’s campaign asked, “What is Paul Ryan afraid of? Why won’t he let members of Congress honor their constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on U.S. military intervention abroad?”
Gratitude. At the meeting, our "thank you" list far exceeded our “ask” list. We thanked Congresswoman Lee for sponsoring the Department of Peacebuilding legislation, which she has done since 2013. Prior to that, she was a cosponsor of every such bill since it was introduced in 2001. Every bill we thought of asking Congresswoman Lee to cosponsor, she had already cosponsored: 1) Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act (HR 669/ S 200), introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu; 2) “Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2017(HR 1748) by Rep. Bobby Scott; 3) Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (HR 1872/ S 821) by Rep. Jim McGovern (MA); and more.
There was one bill Congresswoman Lee has not cosponsored, but that’s because there is no House version of the Elie Weisel Genocide Prevention Act (S. 1158/ No HR).
We also thanked the Congresswoman for sponsoring House Resolution 387 Congratulating the Golden State Warriors on the 2017 NBA Championship.
Our work. We talked about our peacebuilding work at many levels:
- National – We have worked with the Congresswoman on revisions to the Department of Peacebuilding legislation, on gaining cosponsors, on securing organization and city cosponsors.
- State – We have worked with many organizations, including the CA Democratic Party (CDP) on support for the DoP legislation, peacebuilding language in the CDP Platforms, passage of peacebuilding-related resolutions, petition signatures for such issues as restorative justice, gun safety and no solitary confinement for juveniles. We also hold monthly CA conference calls with guest speakers from Job Corps, Southern Poverty Law Center, MLK Freedom Center, Friends of the Congo, Kids for Peace and more.
- Regionally – We have secured DoP support from the Sierra Pacific Lutheran Synod, participated (tabled, conducted a workshop) in the Sixth Annual Conference of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice in Oakland, worked on empathy and other nonviolent means of communications, supported passage by the Oakland City Council of a Department of Violence Prevention, collaborated with multiple groups on the Japanese Peace Lantern Ceremony attended by between 2,500 and 3,000 people last year, and more.
We can’t give up. We met with Senior Congressional Aide Jose Hernandez, who said he likes everything about his job except the current political climate and that, because Democrats are in the minority, they are mainly putting out fires. The Congresswoman and her staff try to find ways to support the community and they work to stay hopeful. He said, “We can’t give up. If not us, who?”
Meeting attendees. Meeting attendees included Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Josh Roebuck, Elisabeth Scharbaum and Stephanie Thomas. We also channeled supporters of the national and CA Department of Peacebuilding campaigns. When Congresswoman Lee was at a meeting in Atlanta in February, one of her affiliates admired our “Campaign for a Department of Peacebuilding” banner. The National Department of Peacebuilding Committee and the CA DoP group took on getting her a banner, one of our San Diego advocates donated the funding, and we delivered that banner at our pie meeting. (See photo with this article.)
What can you say when a member of Congress, like Barbara Lee, is such a strong advocate for peacebuilding? And you live in the land of the Golden State Warriors? It’s a good time to be in the Oakland/ San Francisco Bay area.
2. California Advocacy/ San Diego - Rep. Susan Davis (D), Sen. Kamala Harris (D), Rep. Scott Peters (D), Rep. Juan Vargas (D)
In San Diego, DoP advocates and adults and young people affiliated with San Diego Kids for Peace visited four legislative offices. Due to time constraints, they were unable to keep the meeting with the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D). “Cynthia Gilliam did a wonderful job of channeling the spirit of Julie Ward Howe, the founder of Mother's Day, by letting all of the office staff members we spoke to know that we need to make a Culture of Peace HAPPEN NOW, no more talking about it,” Brian Gibbs said.
They had a “pleasant surprise at our 10am visit at Rep Susan Davis' office since she was there in person to greet and chat with us. She listened very attentively to all the students who expressed themselves very nicely regarding what peacemaking meant to them. Rep Davis expressed her confidence that the future was in good hands since she witnessed such fine young representatives there before her,” according to Brian.
The staffer at Sen. Kamala Harris’ office shared that he had attended the local schools that the students “who came with us were familiar with. He encouraged them to stay involved politically as they currently are and great things can happen to improve diversity in politics.” Rep Scott Peters’ Field Representative, Kiera Galloway, was very friendly and receptive to the ask that he cosponsor the DOP Act and the Youth PROMISE Act. She listened very appreciatively to the presentations from each of the students and Cynthia. One of the other staff members had graduated from a school the kids were familiar with so they all had a good conversation about that. At the office of Rep. Juan Vargas, they gave a brief presentation.
Meeting(s) attendees. Attendees included Brian Gibbs, Cynthia Gilliam, E3 Civic students, Tatiana, Zanya, Cierra Cloud, Nathaniel, Ana, Leanika, and Millennial Tech Middle School Principal Willie Neil. (Rep. Susan Davis meeting, see photo with this article.) (Sen. Kamala Harris' office, Rep. Scott Peter's office and Rep. Juan Vargas' office, see photos with separate "More Mother's Day Pie Meeting Photos" article.)
3. California Advocacy/ San Luis Obispo – Rep. Salud Carbajal (D)
The San Luis Obispo group, including ten Department of Peacebuilding advocates of various ages and ethnicities, met with the Congressman’s staffer for over an hour. Each shared why the DoP legislation was meaningful to them. The staffer had many questions, suggestions and criticisms about the legislation, including the possibility of breaking the bill into smaller parts and/or distributing portions of the bill to various other cabinet-level departments.
Meeting attendees. Leona Evans and nine others, including members of several San Luis Obispo peace and justice groups.
4. California Advocacy/ Sonoma - Rep. Jared Huffman (D)
The group had a cordial conversation with two staffers who did not know about the DoP legislation. “Like most of the people we meet when tabling, they thought a Department of Peacebuilding was a grand idea, listened attentively and didn't really offer criticisms,” said Maggi Koren. In addition to DoP, they also talked about restorative justice practices, the Metta Center for nonviolence, Gandhi and Martin Luther King teaching, Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures of Peace (GAMIP), the PeaceNow UN/Global resolution, and nuclear disarmament.
“A week later I sent them both a card with an origami peace crane originally created after the Hiroshima Holocaust in Japan (it has been a fun part of our local DOP group package as a way to thank anyone assisting us - also representing another form of outreach to alert people to the fact that no cabinet level department addresses this important issue). I always ask them to promise that they read the bill so we can follow up,” Maggi said.
Meeting attendees. Ken Davis, Maggi Koren, Kendra Mon and Lorrie Norby. (See photo with "More Mother's Day Pie Meeting Photos" article.)
5. Georgia Advocacy – Rep. Hank Johnson (D), Rep. John Lewis (D), Sen. David Perdue (R)
At Rep. Hank Johnson’s office, Debra Poss. said she “met with District Director Kathy Register and District Outreach Director Eric Hubbard. I spoke about the need to put out fires (FBI firing, Health care vote, etc.) but that it is necessary to have a vision beyond that, and that H. R. 1111 is a template for where we need to be. Eric spoke about the need to bring all the areas together under peacebuilding.” Staffers asked which Senators we have contacted about the DoP legislation and they discussed contacts with Atlanta city officials. After her meeting at Rep. Johnson’s office, “Lavolta drove me to the Park and Ride and honked to the bus driver so she would not take off without me (I was able to catch it!!) … If all of you haven't figured it out yet, Congressman Johnson's staff members are extremely folksy, compassionate, etc. !!!!”
Debra Poss made her seventh annual pie visit to Rep. John Lewis’ office and they were very glad to see her. At the office of Sen. David Perdue (R), Debra emphasized TPA’s five cornerstones of peace and said that we need peacebuilding, nonviolence and civility right now and that it is nonpartisan.
Meeting(s) attendee. Debra Poss. (Rep. Hank Johnson's office, see photo with this article.)
6. Illinois Advocacy- Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D), Sen. Richard Durbin (D)
The Illinois team held long meetings with each of their Senators.
Meeting(s) attendees. John Cabral, Karen Johnson, and Celta Smart.
7. Massachusetts Advocacy – Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D)
The MA group tied local peacebuilding concerns with the Department of Peacebuilding legislation. Pat Simon -- a Vietnam Gold Star Mother, long-time MA Peace Alliance State Coordinator, and member/ ally of the National Department of Peacebuilding committee -- said the group did a great job. “Each of you was stellar in your measured remarks - relevant related District history from Bev, and Melina's all important request for Nick Clemons' advice! His particular knowledge of a Kennedy perspective is so valuable. I have to focus my attention on how to reach the Boston Police Commissioner. The Jim Braude/Margery Egan show is a logical connection.”
Meeting attendees. Beverly Droz, Melina Ponak, Pat Simon.
8. Maine Advocacy - Sen. Angus King (I)
In response to the Mother’s Day pie message of Lynn Ellis, Sen. Angus King (I) wrote a letter expressing his appreciation for her support “for establishing a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding, and I share your concern about violence, abuse, or societal conflict in our nation. I firmly believe that everyone should be treated with equality and fairness and be protected from violence and situations where their own well-being is at risk.”
He wrote “While I support the goals of the proposed Department of Peacebuilding, I believe that we can continue to take positive steps by enforcing laws and fully utilizing programs that are already in existence—many of which I have vocally supported since I came to the Senate in 2013—without creating a new federal agency. I strongly support the Violence against Women Act (VAWA)—it was one of the first bills I cosponsored and saw pass into law. Recently, I also wrote letters advocating for robust funding of important programs such as the Legal Services Corporation, the Victims of Child Abuse Act, and the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, which provide resources, education, and support for both victims and their communities. I intend to remain strong in my support for these programs and look forward to seeing their continued positive effect on reducing violence and creating a more stable society.”
Action initiator: Lynn Ellis.
9. Ohio Advocacy - Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), Rep. Warren Davison (R)
Six peacebuilding advocates met with Sen. Sherrod Brown office for well over an hour. Three peacebuilding advocates met with Rep. Warren Davidson’s staffer for an hour.
Meeting(s) attendees. Phil Fry, Peggy Hanna (Clark County Peace Alliance,) Barbara Lynch, Mary Ann Staudter, Debra Walters, Rob (Champaign County Peace Alliance). (Sen. Sherrod Brown's office, see photo with this article.)
Thank you to all who contacted your legislators to advocate for a culture of peace. Please continue scheduling meetings and send me (email@example.com) a description of the meeting and a photo. The time is always right to deliver a peace pie.
National Department of Peacebuilding Lead & Committee