Lehigh University
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Peace activist to speak on virtue of nonviolence

For 20 years, Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post columnist, has balanced his writing career with teaching courses on peaceful resolution to conflict to more than 5,000 students at such institutions as Georgetown Law School, the University of Maryland, various suburban prep schools, and a detention center for troubled youths in the Washington area.

He will bring his message of nonviolence to Lehigh Monday in a 7 p.m. talk at Whitaker Auditorium. McCarthy’s appearance, sponsored by the university’s Humanities Center and the chaplain’s office, is free and open to the public.

Addison Bross, a professor of English, said McCarthy’s talk could offer students an expansive perspective on issues related to peace.

“He is very much a person of hope and a strong disciple of Ghandi and Martin Luther King,” says Bross. “He is a proponent of finding ways to wage peace, or at least resolve conflict, before we rush off to war. We are spending something like $11,000 a second on war in this country, or roughly $900 million a day. And we went to war with virtually no debate and no discussion of alternatives. These are issues students here need to become aware of and discuss.”

Bross added that he was so inspired after hearing McCarthy speak at another college last year that he opted to teach the current freshman seminar course titled “Considering Peace and Nonviolence.”

Teaching peace

McCarthy founded the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C., and is the author of the books I’d Rather Teach Peace, and All of One Peace: Essays on Non-Violence, as well as two other anthologies that detail the virtues of nonviolent resolution of conflict—an approach that McCarthy says is relied upon less and less.

“Of late, pacifism has been denounced, even called evil, as on the op-ed page of The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal,” he says.

Yet, McCarthy finds hope in the spirit of the younger generation, concentrating his efforts through the teaching of nonviolence in secondary schools, colleges and law schools.

“I see inspiration every day in my classrooms when students begin to devour the literature of nonviolence and slowly commit themselves to living a life in which conflicts are settled through the force of justice, the force of organized resistance to abusive power, the force of truth—satya—and the force of love,” he says. “Ghandi said that well-organized, direct action, is not meant to bring adversaries to their knees, but to their senses.”

McCarthy estimates that in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, there is a combined population of 50 million learners who are open to ideas that stress peaceful resolution instead of aggression.

“Unless we teach our children peace,” he says, “someone else will teach them violence."

For more information, please contact Addison Bross, professor of English, at 610-758-3331 or by email.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, February 06, 2004

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