What an EPIC and transformational trip!! Our inaugural Peace Pledge Tour truly was an extraordinary experience for the participating kids, adults, as well as everyone we touched. There were 63 kids from California to Rhode Island from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Many new friendships were formed with promises of Facetime conversations, Facebook posts and traditional pen pal letters to keep in touch.
On Sunday, we kicked off our Peace Pledge tour with a "Pep Rally for Peace" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, followed by a peace parade to the Washington Monument. We made a reverent stop at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. The children joyfully shared their important message with many many people.
On Monday, Congressman Filner (D-CA) brought all the participants onto the Floor of the US House of Representatives (a rare and special experience we're told). We presented our Peace Pledge three times to ensure the powerful message seeped into the seats, hearts and minds of our countries' leaders. (It seemed to have worked because yesterday, immediately following our presentation, they passed their first bi-partisan bill in a very long time! Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, even said upon passing the bill, "We really can work together!" We have no doubt that our children's message of unity, kindness and respect helped the process!!!)
Following the House Floor presentation, we had a special session at the U.S. Institute of Peace where we met Ambassador Solomon, president of the USIP, and learned how they teach Conflict Resolution to create peace around the world. Up next a heartwarming meeting with Kenyan Ambassador Odembo, and then a center court Peace Pledge presentation and acknowledgment of the kids' good work at the Wizards NBA Basketball game. WOW!!!
Tuesday started off with presenting our Peace Pledge to the Democratic Caucus Meeting. The beaming smiles and the thunderous applause of the Representatives summed up the success of this rare opportunity. (No photos allowed inside the Capitol chambers).
Next we were off to the State Department for a special presentation about Islamic relations and peacebuilding, a meeting with Congressman Bilbray and then a visit to the Holocaust Museum where we also stated the pledge. Even a broken down bus couldn't stop our children's optimism and positive attitudes!!
Wednesday was all about service. We visited a homeless shelter where our kids gave Peace Packs to young children, spent time reading and connecting with their new little friends and then blanketed the parking lot with cut-out hearts and lots of love.
Hand made peace pledge posters were given to those we met along the way. Colorfully signed Wish Big: Children's Wishes for the World books were given to each member of congress and a lovingly created heart tree banner was presented to the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Our South Dakota crew also managed to squeeze in a visit with their Senator, John Thune (R-SD) who was mightily impressed with Kids for Peace.
One last recitation of our Peace Pledge at the White House gates concluded the tour.
Our inaugural Peace Pledge Tour was a HUGE success!!! After returning we received a note from one of our capable motor coach drivers, Hal Heishman who said, "It was a distinct pleasure and a blessing to work with Jill and the other adults. The young people were so courteous and always kind to each other and everyone they met. Thanks to all who participate and work in this program." Our world is indeed a better place thanks to the love and conviction of our youth. Three cheers for Kids for Peace, Hooray, hooray, hooray!