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.