Grand Prize Winner
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2006 Grand Prize Winner

Julia Lemke
17 years old, Alaska

According to the dictionary, the definition of peace is “the absence of war or other hostilities.” According to the people of the world, there is no correct, or unified, definition. How do we define peace? If we cannot define it, how are we to follow the guidelines outlined by the definition? How are we to act in a peaceful manner if we cannot agree on what that manner should be? Instead of asking our neighbors, our enemies, ourselves “why there is not peace across the earth,” we need to be asking each other what peace is and what we need to do to obtain it.

Our soldiers stand at attention, waiting for their orders to fight a war that they did not create. Some of them were not old enough to even understand what could cause such hostility and disagreement at the time of the war’s onset. Every generation that comes about has new and unknown situations at hand that they must act upon. Without a proper background of the historical situations, the men and women of this generation are forced to act based on the little factual knowledge they receive in addition the to large amount of persuasive nonsense they are force-fed through TV, magazines and newspapers. We fight for conflicts that don’t even make sense. To put our hearts as a unified country, as an allied world, into something so final as a war, we must have emotion behind it. How do we put emotion into something when we can’t understand its real, underlying purpose? Why would anyone want to serve a country that puts its people in a war zone and its entire basis of existence into jeopardy, for a cause that remains unknown to the masses?

War, conflict and violence cannot exist simultaneously with peace. We support war, claiming that what we’re fighting for is our “American way”, whether it is for land or freedom of religion. Lending a helping hand and destroying a country are not the same. We cannot fight for peace, and even if we could, we would be fighting for nothing. Peace will not, and cannot, be ours—cannot be obtained by the world—until we set a foot down and define what peace is. Peace is not innocent people dying. Peace is not creating famine, hurt, pain or loss amongst humankind. I will be the first to admit that I cannot define peace. I cannot even come close to composing a set-in-stone way of running our world in order to knock out hostility, conflict and opposition. I will also admit that the world, as a whole, cannot truly succeed and prevail over violence until we come together and work as one. Fighting for these so called “causes” drags us down deeper into a hole of desperation. I hope, for the sake of the world, that one day we will all hold hands and climb out together, away from the darkness of controversy.


Judge: Dr. Michael Nagler
Professor emeritus of Nonviolent studies, UC Berkeley.