While my work at USIP has augmented my legal skills (who knew I could crank out a 40 page memo in three weeks?), it has also challenged me to grow as a person. Although we work in countries across the globe, the staff at USIP never use stereotypes. They never give up on countries who have human rights violations or systemic violence. Culture and context inform our strategies to build peace, but never act as barriers. I believe this positive attitude stems in part from the wall of faces.
The walls in our office are lined with faces; some grinning, some smiling shyly, some pouting, some almost fully covered. The faces belong to police officers, store owners, first-time voters, and children. It’s impossible to ignore the unique faces as you walk to your desk. Each morning, I find myself transfixed by a new face. I take a few minutes to wonder how my work, as small as it seems, affects them. I believe the faces remind everyone at USIP of the impact of their work.
This week, we welcomed students from around the country. One of the most interesting events was “Peace Train”, a performance about overcoming struggles. This project began in South Africa and is now touring the USA. The young people involved think seriously about action plans to affect peace, while inspiring people with their stories.
Finally, in the spirit of peace, I am providing the link to President Obama’s speech in Dallas. Through the violence and turmoil, the president speaks to the deeper danger facing our communities: acrimonious discord. In other words, our neighborhoods crumble when you stop loving your neighbor. When you stop trying to understand your neighbors and the issues that matter to them. When your world view becomes so myopic that you embrace nativism and xenophobic fear-mongering. To fight hate, love.