What About PeaceHow is your “What About Peace?” project coming along?  Don’t forget that the deadline for youth aged 14-20 is February 17, 2014  to enter the contest, win prizes (up to $1000) and show the world that you care passionately and creatively about peace on earth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we talk about peace–inner peace, cease fires between nations, freedom from violence on our city streets, an end to discrimination and bullying in our schools — and what our individual responsibility is for peace.  It can seem so overwhelming at times and so out of our control. But one thing has been clear over and over again from the works of 14 – 20 year old contest participants, young people want to be empowered to make the world a better place.  Here is a small opportunity to make your voice heard!

Earlier this month the highly regarded human rights organization, Amnesty International made a bold assertion that US officials should face war crimes charges over drone strikes.  They highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

But aren’t we’re mostly just killing the “bad guys”?  No. According to Human Rights Watch, another leading human rights watch dog organization that has studied the missile attacks in Yemen, American airstrikes in Yemen kill more civilians than terrorists.  Their new report  confirms that Hellfire rockets lack selectivity and exterminate women and children more often than they hit Al-Qaeda members,  which the group believes goes against the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on drones.

Wondering what you can do? Learn more, speak up to your friends, in the newspaper and blogs and engage your representatives. We need to create a groundswell of opposition to this.

Fifty organizations and over 75,000 individuals are asking the United Nations Secretary General and the International Criminal Court to declare that drone attacks violate international law — and to ultimately pursue sanctions against nations using, possessing, or manufacturing weaponized drones.

Take-ActionTAKE ACTION! Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask your US Representative and President Obama to support a treaty forbidding the possession, use of weaponized drones and extra-judicial “kill lists”
  • Ask the governments of each of our nations around the world, to ban the use or sale of weaponized drones.
  • Join the over 75,000 people who have signed this Ban Weaponized Drones petition  by adding your name and comments now!
  • Spread the word to youth and teachers who work with youth aged 14-20 about Global Exchange’s What About Peace art contest to inspire our next generation to create peace.

BAD2013smlogoToday is Blog Action Day, the unifying global day of online action when bloggers around the world write about one topic. This year it’s “human rights.”

The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble begins,  “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Without human rights, there can be no peace. So this Blog Action Day, Global Exchange Director of Organizing Kirsten Moller explores why young people are so important to creating a peaceful world.

Children and adult activists at the Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, July 2013 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Children and adult activists at the Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada, July 2013 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Why are Young People So Important to Creating a Peaceful World? 

Early this summer I spoke to a “20- something” who told me that she couldn’t understand how in the world we used to organize before computers… I laughed and showed her the printing and phone expenses in the budget that were double what they are now and even talked about rubber cement, clip art and the t-squares we used to use to lay out flyers. Everything seemed so much slower but there was so much promise that we could activate to bring peace and justice to this world.

Cliché has it may sound, each older generation inevitably points out, “Ok, look at how we messed up the world, now it’s your turn to make it better” and the younger generation rolls their eyes at how naïve and self righteous the previous generation is — whether it be the “Baby Boomers” or the “Peace and Love” generation of the Viet Nam era.

Global Exchange Reality Tour to Guatemala March 2011 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Global Exchange Reality Tour to Guatemala, March 2011 Photo Credit: Global Exchange

But here now, I see the tremendous potential of new technology to connect young people from around the world in order to cement those people-to-people ties that are at the root of desire to protect human rights, preserve peace and learn about each other.

We’ve never had greater opportunity to learn about each other — to spend time exploring particularities of different cultures and to care about what is possible. Global Exchange is built on the premise that if we know each other — if we break bread together, share our stories, envision the world we want to live in together and work together across borders we can create peace and preserve human rights around the world.

What About Peace Grand Prize WinnerOur “What About Peace?”contest asks the question of 14 – 20 year olds and challenges them to answer using their creativity in writing poetry, prose, or painting a picture, taking a photo or making a drawing or graphic. We’ve been so inspired by the vision and beauty of the contest answers that pour in every year from all around the world. Poetry from Zambia, a photograph from the Ukraine, a short story from Pakistan and our first prize winner a Manga style drawing in colored pencil from upstate New York.

Young people are particularly important to guaranteeing peace and human rights because of the intensity and energy they bring to the vision of a world where peace is possible. Some look to find peace from within, some mourn the violence and intolerance in their communities and the world and pledge to take action, others are disaffected from the political process and want to build the new society now where they live.

Peace-is-Possible-photoBut it is heartening to see how many young people wear a peace sign t-shirt (or tattoo!) proudly front and center and who fervently work to create a new world with tolerance and respect, free from violence, racism and want.

With the What About Peace? contest we seek to develop and recognize that deep sense of compassion that is at the core of international human rights, being able to feel deeply about injustice against anyone, anywhere in the world – trusting in the power of people and especially young people to be actively involved in shaping the policies of governments  that claim to represent them.


We can all benefit from seeing their answers to that question.

Scott Graber, an inspired art teacher from Pennsylvania

Scott Graber, an inspired art teacher from Pennsylvania

After our winners were chosen for this year’s “What About Peace” contest, we discovered something very interesting about three of the top winning artists; though they used different styles and mediums, they shared one thing in common – their teacher: Scott Graber of West Lawn,Pennsylvania. 

Contest rules require that all What About Peace? contest participants must have a teacher/sponsor in order to participate in the contest. And this year out of hundreds of entries, our Grand, First, AND Second Prize Visual winners all came from artist teacher Scott Graber’s class (not to mention a substantial number of Honorable Mentions!)

Here are the winning pieces from Mr. Graber’s class:

2013 Grand Prize Winner "Untitled"; Kaitlyn Reber

2013 Grand Prize Winner
“Untitled”; Kaitlyn Reber

2013 First Prize Visual Winner "Untitled"; Tyler Reppert, 17 yrs

2013 First Prize Visual Winner “Untitled”; Tyler Reppert, 17 yrs

WAP2013Cristina Serban Second Prize_0

2013 Second Prize Visual Winner “Untitled”; Cristina Serban, 18 yrs

We wondered how this teacher inspired such thoughtful work and decided to give him a call. 

It turns out Scott Graber has been teaching art for 14 years and has one of the most dedicated and inspiring teaching styles. We asked him what he did to open his students up to the message of peace. Here’s what he did:

He started with a class discussion about peace – from inner peace to world peace and then showed a slide show of the vibrant, anti-war pop culture posters of

A Few of the classic pieces that art teacher Scott Graber shared with his students for inspiration

Peter Max to experience how to make art with a message. They listened to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and listed the emotions, moods, colors and images that came to their minds. The students loved to talk about Peace, Graber reported, exploring conspiracy theories, dream-like utopias and world affairs.

Then he had the students prepare three or more thumbnail sketches of their ideas, keeping to the question: Is my message evident?  They displayed their sketches and the whole class discussed which composition worked best. Then each student chose her or his medium, the size of the piece and got to work.  

As they worked Graber continued to encourage and ask if the students were working to their full potential – reminding them that their name would be on the finished piece and represents them, teaching strategies he learned from the biggest influence in his life – his own high school art teacher.

All in all the process lasted 3 weeks from start to finish, with lots of great conversations about peace and some really creative answers to the question: “What About Peace?”

Inspiration can be passed from teacher to student to the world in more ways than you always know.   Thank you Scott Graber for your inspiration!



“What About Peace?” Grand Judge David Hartsough

Thanks to the careful consideration by our Grand Judge, David Hartsough – We now have winners of the international “What About Peace?” contest!

Get to Know Grand Judge David Hartsough

David Hartsough, the co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce  and the director of Peaceworkers  has dedicated his life to non-violence since the day his father brought him to Montgomery Alabama when he was 15 years old and he got to meet Martin Luther King. He believes, as president Kennedy did, that “ those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable”.

When I asked David what message he had for 14- 20 year olds—he said that the most important lesson of his life was that 12 students with some courage and some training in non-violence can change history.

People all over the world are realizing that we don’t have to be victims, that it’s not the people with the guns and the weapons that have the power, we do.  We’ll share more of David’s stories right here on our People to People blog as we showcase some of the beautiful work of this year’s contestant.

David was attending a meeting at Global Exchange when all of the artwork was hung in the conference room and the written pieces laid out for reading pleasure.  He was so inspired by all of the creativity displayed and was honored when we asked him to be our grand judge!

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

The 2013 “What About Peace?” winners are (drum roll please):

GRAND PRIZE: Kaitlyn Reber, 17 years old of  Reading, Pennsylvania

What About Peace Grand Prize Winner

2013 Grand Prize Winner; Untitled; Kaitlyn Reber, 17 years old


  • First Prize Visual:  Tyler Reppert, 17 yrs of Wernersville, Pennsylvania
  • Second Prize Visual: Cristina Serban, 18 yrs of Reading, Pennsylvania
  • Third Prize Visual: “Closure” by Jonathan Xie, 16 yrs of San Francisco, California


  • First Prize Written “Africa, Land of Peace”, Victor Sichangala, 16 yrs of Kabwe, Zambia
  • Second Prize Written Winner “It’s You” Emma Nice, 18 yr  Omaha, Nebraska
  • Third Prize Written Winner “A Jump From the Cycle” Callie Lopshire-Bratt, 18 yrs Walnut Creek, California “So, Yeah, Peace” by Adriane Martinez, 17 yrs Omaha, Nebraska


See All the Winners for Yourself!

On our website: Would you like to read the written pieces and see all the beautiful visual pieces? Both written and visual winners are posted on the What About Peace? 2013 Winners webpage.

On Facebook: If you want to see all the visual winners in one album, check out the What About Peace? Facebook page, which has pictures of all the visual winners including Juror’s Awards and Honorable Mentions. We hope you “like” this page to keep the conversation about peace going.

To all who took part in this years’ contest…beautiful work letting us all know that peace is possible. Congratulations to all of you who participated!


Update on 2/18/2013: The call for submissions is now closed. Thanks to ALL who submitted entries. We are overwhelmed by the beauty and thoughtfulness of the pieces. Next, we move on to the most difficult part of this contest; choosing winners from among the hundreds of inspiring entries!

Believe it or not, the entry deadline for the 2013 What About Peace? youth art contest is less than a week away. (Where does the time go?!)

Now in its eighth year, an interesting shift has been happening this year…we’ve been receiving a much higher percentage of international entries than in years’ past. Word has spread globally about this art contest that challenges youth between 14-20 to creatively answer the question: ‘What About Peace?’

In addition to entries from all around the U.S. we’ve received artwork from Nepal, Uganda, Ukraine, and the list goes on!

Worth sharing is this excerpt from a sweet letter we received this week from a What About Peace? teacher sponsor named Olga:

Best wishes from far-away Ukraine! First, let me thank you for giving my pupils an excellent opportunity to express their thoughts about peace creatively. They, like other millions of teenagers, think about peace all over the world and try to share their ideas with others. They are sure “if you draw, if you write, if you take photos- it means you dream about it. And dreams, if they are pure, light, important for everybody, MUST COME TRUE”. You do VERY important thing by involving the youth to dream about peace, because those who dream about it, will NEVER be able to destroy; they will build, create our happy peaceful future.

Wow, thanks Olga for these eloquent words. Peace is certainly universal!

Take-ActionTAKE ACTION! For You Last-Minute Peace-Seekers…

What About Peace? Deadline: All entries must be received to our office by February 15th, 2013. Visit What About Peace? for entry details.

Prizes! Prizes will be given in two categories: written (essay, poem, short story) and visual (painting, collage, photography and graphic).

  • GRAND PRIZE is $1000 in any category
  • First Place –$300 each for the best written entry and $300 for best visual entry
  • Second Place– $150 in each category
  • Sponsor/Teacher’s prizes –$100 for Grand prize and first prize

Want to enter? Visit our information page.

Questions? Contact kirsten@globalexchange.org with questions.

And remember the wise words of Olga, “those who dream about it, will NEVER be able to destroy; they will build, create our happy peaceful future.”


Artwork ready for the jury

What about Peace? The answer is on it’s way.

What About Peace? is the international arts contest for youth ages 14 – 20 to express ideas and thoughts about peace by responding to the question, “What About Peace?” through artistic expression, with $1500 in prize money to be given out.

"What About Peace?" submissions laid out by jurists

The deadline has passed to submit and the question “What about Peace?” has been answered by over 700 young people – using the medium of photography, painting, graphic, poetry, short story and essay.  The answers came from all over the country – Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, Arizona, California and far off countries including the Philippines.

Last year I served as the “What About Peace?” Grand Judge and this is the first year that Global Exchange has been in charge of this contest that is designed to reward sustained thought about what we mean by peace and how we achieve it.  It was started by a visionary woman, Barbara Briggs-Letson who believes that having young people think about peace is a good thing and that their unleashed creativity can and will make it happen.

What About Peace? promotes an important inter-generational dialogue and the jurists were inspired by the carefully thought out essays, poems and beautiful paintings and collages.

Some of the "What About Peace" 2012 entries

For continuity this year I drove up to Sebastopol, CA where last year’s jury showed me how it was done. Four jurists – a museum curator, an artist and two art teachers helped me spread out all the visual pieces in the pews of large church that had donated space. Then came the difficult task of finding the truly unique answers, the creative responses and the artfully executed pieces. It wasn’t easy! There are some great entries this year.

Now the pieces have returned to San Francisco, where our Grand Judge Rae Abileah will pick the prize winners in the next two weeks and we will have the honor of announcing and posting the winners on April 20th on our What About Peace? website and right here on our People to People blog. Stay tuned!


2011 Painting Winner Christopher Minafo, 15 years old, New York "Unity"

The following website exclusive was written by Global Exchange Executive Director Kirsten Moller who was the Grand judge in the 2011 “What About Peace?” contest for young artists, an international arts contest for youth ages 14 – 20 to express ideas and thoughts about peace.

A Modest Proposal ~  Peace

Early this spring I drove north to Sebastopol, CA through the green hills of northern California with the radio reporting on Egypt and what young people and ordinary citizens can accomplish with a mind set on freedom and a steadfast commitment to nonviolence.  I was on my way to be the Grand judge in the What About Peace? contest for young artists.

For more than 6 years the What About Peace? contest has challenged young people to answer this question with all their creativity through the medium of painting, photography, graphic arts, poetry and creative writing.

2011 Graphic Winner Jessica Christensen, 18 years old, Tennessee "What Shape Is Your Heart In?"

What About Peace? is a joint program of Global Exchange & Jadetree Three. Jadetree Three is a California trust dedicated to peace and social justice worldwide. When the Jade tree three started the contest and Global Exchange joined in, we thought it was a good way to spark a conversation and a commitment to peace by harnessing the hope, from the smart, thoughtful young people who have thought seriously and creatively about peace.

Every year a team of volunteers seeks out new high schools and community groups to send the announcement to. They stuff envelopes, select judges and update the web site and then wait to see if anyone is thinking about peace.  Little by little the submissions come in – from all over the world – Thailand, the Philippines, Missouri, Washington and beyond.

You can check out the submissions at www.whataboutpeace.org. The range of creativity, concepts and commitment make it nearly impossible to select the best.  A jury of professional artists and writers pick the top entrants in each category and then the Grand judge has to make a final decision.

2011 Photo Winner Sidney Hahm, 15 years old, Maryland "Peace In Our Hands"

This year as the Grand judge, while driving north I thought about the young people leading us to a better world in Tunisia, in Egypt, in the climate struggles and in the local green initiatives sprouting up around the US.  I realized that I wanted to select a winner who not only showed originality and beauty but who represented that spirit of empowerment. A winner who conveys a belief that despite all odds, change is possible, peace is possible, justice is core, and that we have the ability to do it.

So with that measure in place it was with great pleasure that I selected for the 2011 Grand Prize winner—18 year old John Falchetta’s essay:  “My Modest Proposal”, an essay which describes his decision to run for president on a peace platform.  His essay ends with this paragraph:

I see, in this movement, the next generation of young leaders worldwide; from Afghan peace volunteers to student protesters in London – and am reminded of Gandhi, who said, “Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you… but it is most important that you do it.”

Yes, John – the answer to the question  “What about  Peace?”  is the modest proposal to do something!

You can read the entire winning piece here.