Martin Sheen, Ken Hackett Inaugurate Peace School
October 22, 2007 — As the University of San Diego's new Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies swings open its doors, the most prominent message to students is to build peace from within.
This sentiment was echoed at the school's October 17 inauguration ceremony, where actor and activist Martin Sheen and Catholic Relief Services' President Ken Hackett lent their passionate, encouraging words.
"The mandate is to change the world and that begins with ourselves," said Sheen, best known for his television role as President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing. "If we can change one individual to make peace with themselves it's very, very contagious. And once you become comfortable as a peacemaker it becomes something instinctual, because we know very clearly what the alternative is."
University of San Diego President Dr. Mary Lyons presented Sheen and Hackett with the university's first Medal of Peace honors "for their heroic acts on behalf of peace."
Serving the Poor and Disenfranchised
Catholic Relief Services has long focused on peacebuilding as a means to humanitarian development, as we seek to serve the poor and disenfranchised.
Hackett's career with CRS spans over 30 years. The founding dean of the peace school, Father William (Bill) Headley, previously worked at Catholic Relief Services as Hackett's counselor until he departed earlier this year to assume the university post.
Hackett described the school's inauguration as "a great tribute to Father Bill and to CRS."
"There was a clear and repeated recognition and thanks to CRS for 'giving us Father Bill' and there was also great applause and expectation for what Bill will bring to the University," he says.
Headley is recognized as a respected peacebuilder, practitioner and educator. His keynote address charged everyone in attendance to become peacebuilders who can take small strides to meet a larger goal of finding solutions to end world conflict.
"An oasis is a good metaphor, in some ways, for what we want to do in this new school," the dean said. "The dictionary defines an oasis as an area in a desert made fertile by groundwater or irrigation. It's here. We have it right here in this building."
The platform of the school, which includes the established Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice and the Trans-Border Institute, is to educate and empower a young generation of peacebuilders. It will focus on peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts as students and world leaders are trained to solve world conflict.
Endowed with $50 million from the late philanthropist, Joan B. Kroc, the school is the only one of its kind in the country that is entirely dedicated to peace studies.
It is envisioned that students from various corners of the world will work together with the common bond of bringing a reality of peace and justice before a global audience.
"Peace has a way of igniting a great light in the world, and it is because there is so much darkness from the violence and the hatred," said Sheen. "It's primarily based on fear and ignorance. There are students here from Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya and Palestinian territories. That's amazing! Can you imagine several Palestinian students coming here with some Israeli students and what their future is going to be? It will not be what it is now."