Mr. President, today I wish to join with individuals across the world in recognizing the 20th anniversary of the founding of Seeds of Peace, an organization dedicated to the advancement of peace through understanding, reconciliation, acceptance, and coexistence among people, and established on the principle that long-term peace within or between nations can only be achieved with the emergence of a new generation of leaders who choose dialogue over violence.
Seeds of Peace’s first camp session in 1993 was a labor of love for the late founder and esteemed journalist, John Wallach. That summer, under the leadership of Wallach, Bobbie Gottschalk, and Timothy Wilson, Seeds of Peace hosted 46 Arab and Israeli teenagers at its first summer camp in my home State of Maine. Since that day, the organization has blossomed into a full-fledged leadership program, which spans 27 countries with full staff in Amman, Gaza, Jerusalem, Kabul, Lahore, Mumbai, New York, Otisfield, Ramallah, and Tel Aviv.
Today, for 3 weeks at a time, during the months of June, July, and August, on the beautiful shores of Pleasant Lake in Otisfield, ME, Seeds of Peace brings together young people and educators from areas immersed in civil conflict, war, and other political and social unrest, to learn about coexistence and conflict resolution at their international summer camp. Camp participants engage with one another in both guided coexistence sessions and typical summer camp activities, which expose the human face that lie behind ethnic, religious, and political differences.
Now, under the acclaimed leadership of Leslie Lewin, Seeds of Peace has prepared over 5,000 alumni, known as “Seeds,” primarily from the Middle East, South Asia, the Balkans, and Cyprus, for roles of leadership by offering them not only the unmatched summer camp experience of sleeping next to, eating alongside, and swimming with those who are their alleged enemies, but also a robust and worthwhile slate of intensive, year-round programs encircling the globe, which are focused on further refining the skills learned and relationships built at camp.
Seeds of Peace is a testament to the importance of conflict resolution and reconciliation programs as a tool for creating peace, and the program is indisputably making a difference in the lives of its Seeds each and every day. It is no surprise that Seeds of Peace is strongly supported by participating governments and many world leaders, and I urge my colleagues to join me in recognizing the organization’s contributions to the advancement of peace—which all began with a 3 week stint at a summer camp in Maine 20 years ago. Seeds of Peace provides a promise for a better future, and I enthusiastically welcome its continued efforts for years to come.