Promoting Peace in Our Service Work.

An optimistic view of the future suggests that peace is not merely a lofty aspiration but the very cornerstone of our ability to survive and thrive.

Reprinted from the Corvallis Gazette Times

Growing up in the 1960s in a tranquil, predominantly white suburb south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was a unique experience.   My parents raised six children within the confines of safe, homogenous surroundings. I attended schools where faces mirrored my own, and cultural exposure was mostly limited to what could be gleaned from textbooks. I was raised Catholic in an environment where ignorance was more prevalent than malice.

One month after graduation from high school, I enlisted in the United States Air Force, seeking adventure and a chance to broaden my horizons. My assigned roommates in basic training were a contrasting trio: a Jewish guy named Micah from New York City, a black guy named Charles from Illinois, and a guy from the Deep South, whose name escapes me, but his nickname was Bo. As we navigated the challenges of military life, our differences influenced each other, and our camaraderie and friendship deepened.

As a beneficiary of President Harry Truman’s bold move to desegregate the armed forces in 1948, I learned to appreciate the strength that diversity brought to a team of soldiers. Our shared experiences forged bonds that transcended racial and cultural boundaries. The stereotypes and biases I may have unknowingly harbored were dismantled, replaced by the qualities of character that each of us brought to the table.

Fast forward to 2016, when I explored my heritage with a DNA test submitted to 23andMe, a consumer genetic testing service. The results contained the expected reporting of my family’s primarily European Balkan heritage. But, also a surprising disclosure – I possess a small percentage of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. I approached this news with curiosity rather than shock, and it only served to strengthen the connection I felt with my contemporary Jewish friends, one of whom enthusiastically welcomed me into the tribe.

However, the recent rise of anti-Semitism has cast a shadow over the connection with my newfound Jewish heritage. The reported data breach of seven million users of 23andMe, the biotechnology company that identified my DNA background, has left me a bit uneasy, raising concerns about the security of my personal information.

In a world where hate crimes are on the rise, I find myself contemplating the potential risks associated with part of my identified ancestry. For the first time in my life, I feel a threat by my reported, albeit small, Jewish ethnicity. After all, bad actors don’t care; they paint with a broad, exploitative paintbrush.

The very thought of targeted terrorism is disconcerting, a stark contrast to the innocence of my early suburban upbringing. It’s a reality check that underscores the importance of standing against discrimination and prejudice.

While my military experience first introduced me to the value of diversity, my education career and community service work highlight the need for global tolerance and understanding, especially in a world where hatred can manifest itself in unexpected and alarming ways.

An optimistic view of the future suggests that peace is not merely a lofty aspiration but the very cornerstone of our ability to survive and thrive. Through dedicated efforts, collaboration, and persistent conversations with others, we must weave the fabric of a world population bound together by resilient threads of empathy and mutual respect.

This is hard but genuinely inspirational work. Let us positively impact our community and the world by promoting peace in all that we do.


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