For Lee Weisberg, finding a passion for peace was as simple as attending a concert. At a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in 2006, Weisberg was given a flier advertising a lobbying event to endorse the creation of a U.S Department of Peace.
After attending the conference in February 2007, Weisberg began tabling at the Bell Tower that fall semester. With the help of online social network Facebook and the constant tabling, Weisberg recruited students to join the Student Peace Alliance.
In October 2007, the SPA was officially recognized as a student organization.
“There are two main goals of the group,” said Weisberg, the founder of Temple’s chapter and a recent alum. “No. 1 is to cultivate and maintain a culture of peace on campus and in local communities. And No. 2 is to create awareness about the campaign to establish the within the federal government.
“There is always debating and arguing and not much room for dialogue,” he said. “We’re calling for people to recognize the differences among each other. Whatever the differences are, we can recognize them and come together through the Student Peace Alliance and have this positive environment.”
Last semester, SPA hosted and participated in several different events in order to get their message out. For their first event, they hosted Burmese student activists as guest speakers. The organization also had a film screening of the human rights documentary A Force More Powerful, rallied in Philadelphia and held a Walk-Out for Peace last semester on campus.
For this semester, the group wants to focus on reaching out to the community, SPA President Madison Chibirka said.
“We bring groups together. We bring people together. We are trying to bridge the gap between the campus and the community,” said Chibirka, a junior philosophy major.
In order to do so, SPA is collaborating with student organizations, like Students for Environmental Action, to do community service around North Philadelphia, Chibirka said.
She said that through collaborating with different groups on campus, SPA wants to bring people together.
The national organization, the Peace Alliance, provides university and high school chapters with actions each month that they can participate in to further extend knowledge of the cause.
According to PeaceAlliance.org, the goal of the organization “is to take the field of peacebuilding from the margins of the political and societal dialogue and bring it to its rightful place: central to our policymaking, investment and understanding.”
This month, the chapters of the Peace Alliance were asked to send valentines to local representatives asking for endorsement of and explaining the Department of Peace.
SPA set up a table in the Student Center atrium Feb. 14 and asked students to write the valentines. Baked goods were also sold.
The organization takes action in order to promote peace and remains hopeful in this vision, Chibirka said.
“Peace is not something that is this utopia. It’s something that’s practical and pragmatic, and we can make it a part of our everyday lives,” Weisberg said.
SPA meets every Monday at 7 p.m. The meetings are held either in the Student Center or Mitten Hall.
“We try to get our members to understand that you can’t be a peace activist if you don’t have inner peace yourself,” Chibirka said. “It needs to start at an individual level, and then goes to relationships, then to the campus. It just radiates out.”
Amanda Fries can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.