Walk for Peace combines efforts of Cleveland and Lakewood organizers

(Plain Press, October 2006) On Saturday, September 16, participants walked from Lakewood Park to Edgewater Park joining a nationwide “Walk for Peace” to raise awareness of legislation (HR 3760 and S. 1756) currently in the House and Senate to create a cabinet level US Department of Peace and Nonviolence.  

Domestically, the Department would develop policies and allocate resources to effectively reduce levels of domestic and gang violence, child abuse and other forms of societal conflict through education, mediation and support.

On a Global level, the Department would advise the President and Congress on the newest techniques in the areas of conflict resolution. Additionally, the creation of a Peace Academy would train civilian peacekeepers and the Military in the latest non-violent techniques.

On this chilly end of summer Saturday, walkers huddled around Congressman Dennis Kucinich as he gave an opening address of encouragement and hope for a more peaceful future. He referenced his recent experiences as he walked through numerous villages in Lebanon. Elizabeth Kucinich, the congressman’s wife, said: "Dennis and I will never forget what followed.  Here we stood in the darkness, surrounded by people who suffered great loss, who had every right to express anger or even rage, yet instead they expressed remarkable depth of forgiveness, compassion and a desire for peace and reconciliation.”

The Congressman and his wife Elizabeth joined the walkers, who represented a diverse group cutting across religious, political, philosophical and community lines, for the first part of the 5-mile walk. Walkers were reminded on the onset that this was not a protest, but the opportunity to communicate the advantages of having a national Department of Peace.

The Organizers of this year’s walk, Jackie Balyer (Cleveland), Peggy Kacerek (Bedford), Norina Columbaro and Ruth Koenigsmark, (Lakewood) spent several months coordinating this event.  Cleveland organizer Jackie Balyer had contacted Lakewood organizer Ruth Koenigsmark early on and suggested that Lakewood and Cleveland seek a joint effort.

“Jackie, was instrumental in keeping us all on task and the “heart” of this effort,” said Norina Columbaro. Norina who joined this endeavor shortly after seeing a posting on Lakewood Observer looking for volunteers, was instrumental in securing permits and space at Lakewood park.

A couple of days prior to the event and quite by chance Koenigsmark met the Bike4Peace group in Lakewood before their potluck at C-Space on Clark Avenue in Cleveland. The group had traveled from Washington State biking their way to Washington DC to take messages of Peace to the White House.  Unfortunately, they were unable to change plans to participate in this year’s walk but discussion is underway as plans are made for a bigger event to not only include a walk but perhaps a day long Peace Festival.

One of the moments for the group, I am sure, was when Norina’s Columbaro son, Sam recited The Peace Building Pledge, which Grant School Students recite each morning before class begins.  It goes like this….

“I am a Peace Builder.  I pledge: To praise people. To give up putdowns.  To seek wise people. To notice, and speak up about, hurts I have caused.  To right wrongs.  I will build peace at home, at school, and in my community each day”.

Thursday, September 21, the International Day of Peace, got many of these participants together again for another walk organized by Elizabeth Kucinich in Ohio City completing her 10-day, 60-mile walking tour of the greater Cleveland area.

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