By Betsy Mulligan Dague
Executive Director, Jeanette Rankin Peace Canter
I had the humbling honor of talking to a room of Thai professionals at the Mahidol University Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies who know firsthand the challenges and rewards of working for peace. The school itself is a testament to their dedication and drive. The journey to peace requires us to use the best of ourselves to connect with the best of others. It means letting go of being right and being willing to be vulnerable so we can understand the needs of others and learn to find common ground. This itself is challenging. The people I met in Bangkok were working to do this with added challenges. Even if I couldn’t understand the language, I could hear the passion in their voices — cutting to the core of what they do.
They taught me what persistence looks like and the reasons why we keep going. At one point I thought, “what do I have to teach them?” We all look for a secret weapon to make it easier but I have only the same simple tools they have. And then I knew that what they needed was reassurance and hope. The work we do to spread peace is similar regardless of our country. Our destiny is tied to the destiny of all people and we share our work and successes in order to catch courage from each other. And therein lies our power. None of us are alone and the world, though large in size, is a very small place. I am meeting some amazing people who inspire me with hope for the world. And I am getting a chance to re-connect with some friends who fill my heart with love. I always say that peace at its core is about connections and relationships so I am privileged to be making peace happen in the world – one friend at a time. I am leaving Thailand after one short week filled to the brim with love and memories I will be privileged to carry with me forever. I am so thankful to the YSEALI program (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative) and all the fellows I have had the honor of meeting. I also want to thank the US State Department for continuing to fund this incredible opportunity and of course the staff of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center for your help in making this happen. You guys deserve lots of credit for making peace in the world!! I think I am the lucky one to have received much more than I have given. I am renewed to face the challenges of my work and inspired to reach higher and farther because I have seen what these young men and women do every day.