Taking the #PeaceDayChallenge with United States Institute of Peace

This years’ International Day of Peace is upon us and we’re excited to tell you how DreamWakers has teamed up with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to engage classrooms across the country in the #PeaceDayChallenge.

What exactly is the #PeaceDayChallenge, you ask? It’s an international campaign to raise the profile of today, September 21, which is the International Day of Peace. The goal is to affirm peace as a real alternative to the violence we see every day in the news. In order to spread the #PeaceDayChallenge to classrooms across the country, DreamWakers is collaborating with the USIP to empower their world-class experts to speak directly to young people in a series of virtual flashchats.

For example, USIP speakers include Mona Yacoubain, Senior Advisor for Syria, Middle East and North Africa; Leanne Erdberg, the Director of Countering Violent Extremism; and Ambassador William Taylor (above) who hosted a flashchat last week from Washington, D.C. with Ms. Lisa Reynolds’ 5th grade Social Studies students in Independence, KY.

For background, Taylor currently serves as the executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Earlier, he was the special coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the U.S. State Department. He oversaw assistance and support to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. He also served as the U.S. government’s representative to the Mideast Quartet, which facilitated the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. He served in Baghdad as the first director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office from 2004 to 2005, and in Kabul as coordinator of international and U.S. assistance to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003. He is a graduate of West Point and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and served as an infantry platoon leader and combat company commander in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Germany.

During his first DreamWakers flashchat, Taylor shared with the students how they have the opportunity to embrace the #PeaceDayChallenge and take real action to help spread peace around the globe. “Peace is something we can work towards,” he said, “when we resolve a conflict or when we do something to help others.”

After the flashchat, Ms. Reynolds wrote to us:

The kids are truly taking this Challenge to heart!! They enlisted the art teacher’s help and he is making a giant banner which will say “PEACE DAY 2018” to hang in the cafeteria…The entire student body and staff are wearing WHITE shirts next Friday in unity for International Peace Day….The lower grades will read Peace Week in Miss Fox’s Class and the older kids will read Good People Everywhere. Both books share a message of peace and were featured on the poster Ambassador Taylor sent us. Finally, if we can get it together (I am working on it) we are going to release WHITE Balloons(27 balloons) at recess to represent our commitment to a future filled with Peace. Needless to say-they have taken this pretty seriously. Which makes me a very proud 5th grade teacher!

Ambassador Taylor was impressed with Ms. Reynolds’ students, noting that they “asked smart questions that showed curiosity about the world, and a real interest in what it means to be a peacebuilder.”

After their flashchat, Ms. Reynolds’ students continued to discuss ways they could help facilitae peace in their school and community. Maelyn M reflected: “I am really excited to be able to help spread peace throughout our school.” Fellow student Carson M added: “ I learned how important it is to have people who work to help people and places find peace where there is lots of disagreements. Children are counting on these important people.” Finally, Gabby P remarked: “ I did not know flashchats could be so interesting,” and added: “When are we doing it again?”

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