Peace Summit:

Notes on the Newark Peace Education Summit, May 2011

We have written about how the seeds of the Karuna School were sown at the conference, Peacemaking: The Power of Non-Violence, that took place 1997 in San Francisco with His Holiness the Dalai Lama presiding. It was being in the company of the powerful group of presenters and participants at that conference that inspired my husband, Ted, and myself to ask, “How can we do better by our kids at the high school level? How can we help kids believe that they can make a difference and give them the tools to do so?” A year later the horror of the Columbine massacre galvanized us to create a school that addressed kids emotional and spiritual needs as well as their intellectual needs. Fifteen years later in May, 2011, with the Karuna School initiative in its fourth year and with our new Head of School, Adrienne Miller, on board, we attended the second conference with His Holiness, the Newark Peace Education Summit.

The Newark Peace Summit was similar in many ways. The plenary panels went from the first panel on personal peace to a panel on peace in the family, to one on peace in schools, one on peace in the community, and finally to a panel on global peace. Yet for me there were two huge differences between the conference in 1997 and this year’s conference. First, this conference was held in the heart of inner city Newark and well over half of the attendees were people of color. The panelists were dynamic, inspired leaders of the Newark community as well as visionaries of various national initiatives, also mostly people of color. There was a palpable sense of the dedicated, on-the-ground work of both panelists and participants as they grapple with the complexities and challenges of our society. I felt so much hope witnessing the commitment and determination of all the people at the conference.

Secondly, we could all see that in providing a truly evolutionary education grounded in mindfulness, self-awareness and compassion we are riding a huge wave that is already in motion. As Dr. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education from NYU, put it elegantly in his address, “Our main job is to help our students become more human.” It is clear that many educators are coming to the same conclusion: teenagers are hungry for a sense of purpose, for the tools that will help them deeply know themselves as they answer the call for peace and social justice. High school can no longer be simply a means to the end of getting into college. Instead, it must be a sincere effort to help young global citizens to develop their unique gifts so that they can go on to fulfill their life’s purpose.

In our next newsletter we will share reflections on the Peace Conference by members of the Karuna School community who attended with us. Stay tuned.

In peace,

Prajna and Ted

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