First Annual National Youth Campaign for a 
United States Department of Peace:
A Student’s Impressions

by Diane Childs

Rev. Eric Estling. Willene Johnson photographer    In October 2007, seventeen-year-old Rev. Eric Estling from Gainesville, Florida, attended the first annual National Youth Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace at Brandeis University in Boston, hosted by the Student Peace Alliance. His local Department of Peace group granted him a scholarship. The conference included workshops on topics such as non-violent communication and strategic ways to reduce violence.

Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, and the founder of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Peace and Nonviolence was a speaker, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Betty Williams, the Irish woman who ended a civil war in Ireland by staging a walk to protest genocide.  As a keynote speaker, she got everyone in the audience to hug each other, and proved to Eric that you didn’t have to be an important rock star to make a change for peace.

After dumping his sleeping bag on the floor of a dorm room where he would be staying for the weekend, Eric toured the socially conscious campus of Brandeis, and met with the 300 plus attendees of the Student Peace Alliance conference from all over the world.

The conference, organized by a freshman student, included videos by Dennis Kucinich, who wrote the Department of Peace bill HR808, and speeches by zealous peace activists. Panels were facilitated by Peace Corps-type workers, a rap music producer who disliked the violent language of rap, and a filmmaker who gave cameras to Baghdad citizens.

Before attending this conference, Rev. Estling had looked at college degrees as a piece of paper to use to make money, and as a dually enrolled high school student at Santa Fe Community College, was pursuing a music degree. After his experience in Boston, Eric wants to expand his intellectual horizons and is looking into peace studies at several universities. He said, “if I get something that warms my heart, the work will follow.” If you would like info about the Student Peace Alliance, or want to ask Eric a question, email him at


Now Playing: "Imagine" by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Diane Childs is Editor of Natural Awakenings
a North Central Florida healthy living magazine.
She is available for Editing, Research, Writing, Consulting
Query letters, book proposals, and publishing advice
(352) 375-1120

This article first appeared in the newsletter of the Alliance of Divine Love and is reprinted with the author's permission.
Eric's photo is used with permission of Willene Johnson, photographer.

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