Graduates invested in peace

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To the Editor:

On Class Night at the Tabernacle on Friday evening, 104 graduating seniors intending higher education received support totaling $2.75 million. We live in a wondrously generous community.

We of the MV Peace Council usually receive about 20 applications for our Embarking Peacemaker award, somewhat fewer this year perhaps because this year’s graduating class is somewhat smaller than usual, but still about one in six of those present.

That these kids take the time and care to affirm their dedication to making peace in the world is a thing to honor, and according to their advisers, they value and vie for that honor. There’s certainly not much money offered. Thanks to contributions from two individuals who were earmarked for this award, the MV Friends Meeting (Quakers) was able to pass along to the Peace Council enough for three $500 awards. (For tax purposes, one may also donate to the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard, directed to the Embarking Peacemaker Fund.)

Selecting just three was difficult for the scholarship committee. It always is. Each one, to apply, has chosen during an incredibly busy senior year to write an essay demonstrating commitment to making peace in the world. In other parts of their application materials we see their academic achievement, their public service, their aspirations. We often see starkly encapsulated summaries of tragic and corrosive life experiences that these kids have undergone, but as I said on Class Night, they rise out of this, they are not angry or bitter, they want to help others and act to bring healing in the world. And that is pretty terrific. After plunging into an intense review of these tender, tough, emergent adult lives about to brave that larger world off Island, it is always wrenching to say “No, we don’t have enough money to recognize her as well, nor him, nor them.” (And yes, some go by the pronouns they-their-them.)

Here is how I introduced our three award recipients on Friday and brought them up to the stage.

He sees polarization as the big issue facing you, your generation. He wants to understand how people box themselves into opposing sides, and he wants to learn how to help people unlock those boxes and solve real problems that we have in common. He is a peacemaker embarking from this Island — Blake Leasure.

Here is a musician, dancer, writer, performer, with a passion for a capella group singing and a professional future in musical theater. They’re committed to helping people get past fear of the unknown, specifically folks who fear personal friendships with LGBTQ people. They’re a peacemaker embarking from this Island — Josephine Orr.

With our climate and resource crisis, “the world can not afford to engage in violence, because only through peace, and working together, will we ever be able to survive for longer than this century. Something needs to change.” You each have a part in that great transformation of our life on this planet. What he wants to do is help inspire people as a speech writer in Washington. He is a peacemaker embarking from this Island — Henry Hitchings.

We also wish to honor the other embarking peacemakers who submitted essays about their commitment to the cause of peace: Jillian Ryden, Allyse Guyther, Jasselle Wildanger, Andrew Karlinsky, Patrick Dutton, Nathaniel Packer, Ian Trance, Kelly Klaren, Katherine Morse, Mataya Trusty, Ryan Laslovich, and Owen Engler.

Bruce Nevin, treasurer
For the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council