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Building Peace: One Door at a Time
an article by Joe

Last week, I was fortunate enough to work with a group of very intelligent and dedicated youth activists from around the country. We collaborated on grassroots campaigns and voter registration drives in the "battleground" state of Ohio.

For most of the week, I stayed in Cincinnati, doing door-to-door outreach in low income communities. About half of my time was spent on a local human rights issue - defeating a city law that makes it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians just for their sexual identity. Although some of us were not homosexuals, our offer of solidarity was warmly welcomed by the campaign staff and we all had a great time.

My most profound experience, though, was canvassing neighborhoods for the AFL-CIO. I spoke with an elderly man, a retired shop worker, who had never voted in his life. The last worthy president he could remember was FDR. Events in the world and in his life, however, had convinced him that it was time to speak out. His body was feeble and his hand cramped with arthritis; so I had to fill out the registration form for him. But there was a fierce determination in his eyes. He was so glad that we had come around; and he was sad when we had to leave.

I met an African-American woman, a nurse. She had no health insurance. She was diagnosed with cancer and had to live in a homeless shelter for nearly a year while on chemotherapy. She asked me why we were spending hundreds of billions on wars in distant lands when kids across her street were dying of starvation. I didn't have a good answer at hand. I just said: "I'm sorry."

For me, listening to these people and empowering them to vote is part of building a culture of peace in this country. It's not glamorous, it's not earth shattering, it's not headline news - it's just something that has to be done - one person at a time.


Question(s) related to this article:

Voter registration, does it promote a culture of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

Joe.  Your report is very inspiring.  It reminded me that the construction of a country of, by,  and for the people will be done one person at a  time.

This report was posted on August 17, 2004.