Annual Meeting - February 19, 2008
Remarks by Francis Chiappa, President,
Welcome to the Annual Meeting of
In January 2005, board members and key volunteers met to develop a four-year strategic plan. We envisioned a much more vital and active organization, one that holds more events, keeps in better touch with elected officials, stays in better and more frequent touch with you, though newsletter and email, maintains a better website, and overall is a stronger voice for peace, speaking to the NE Ohio community. I am happy to report that, three years into the strategic plan, by most measures we have done well. I won’t belabor the details, but with your help, Cleveland Peace Action has generated much more action.
As for the coming year, well, in case you haven’t heard, we’re having an election. For the community of people that is Cleveland Peace Action, Presidential election years tend to change how we work, as many of us will, no doubt, get involved in the campaigns. We as an organization can and are already trying to influence the candidates’ positions on peace issues. You’ll see at the advocacy table we have postcards about not attacking
Peace Action nationally is now celebrating 50 years of activism and we’d like tonight to have our own local celebration, to remember and to become re-inspired. I can think of no better speaker to help re-inspire us than Joan Southgate, that indefatigable advocate for justice and peace.
But first let me talk a bit about Peace Action’s history. You can read more about it in a paperback we have for sale tonight, entitled Peace Action: Past, Present and Future. Pat McCullough, now a Clevelander and present tonight, authored a chapter on how the Nuclear Freeze inspired a local community.
The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy was formed in 1957, to push for an end to nuclear weapons testing. By 1963 there was a ban on above-ground testing, but explosions continued underground. We don’t know details on the
In 1981, the nuclear weapons freeze burst onto the national scene, behind a deceptively simple proposal from the late Randall Forsberg – to freeze all testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.
SANE had a strong national office and the Freeze had grassroots groups all over the country. So it was a natural that in 1988, SANE and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign would merge. The first combined national congress of SANE/FREEZE (capital letters please! was held right here in downtown
In the 80’s, with a big push from us, Ronald Reagan went from joking that “we begin bombing in 5 minutes” and ordering lots of shovels for us all to dig holes in case of nuclear war, to the President who negotiated arms reductions with Mikhail Gorbachev and supported the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons. Still going strong in 1991, we led local opposition to the Gulf War – the “first Iraq War.”
But movements wax and wane, and to keep my head pointed in the right direction, I have to ponder the 70 years of organized struggle it took for women to be able to vote. By 1992, the Cold War was over, Bill Clinton was elected, and our local group was on the wane. While we managed to participate in successfully pressuring
Progress was slow until 2001. Just as Ronald Reagan created the Freeze movement by scaring the hell out of us, George W. Bush created today’s peace movement in the same way. I’m sorry to say that Bush didn’t listen as Reagan did. I don’t need to pain you now with details, but you all know that it took the worst President in American history to get us into this gruesome mess. Social movements seem to thrive on messes. So here we stand today with an opportunity to re-vision
It seems we could have a rather different President come next year. My biggest worry is that the peace movement will again wane, just as it did in 1992. Things will get a little better and we’ll all take a rest. But without our active engagement in the political process, there will be superficial changes but not the deeper changes we’ve been advocating. For the last 7 years we’ve been yelling ourselves hoarse, while those in power have completely ignored us. In the coming year and the four after the election, we have a chance to speak AND be heard. Cleveland Peace Action will be more needed than ever. Let’s stick together.
Now I’d like to honor a number of people who have played important roles in our local affiliate of the Freeze, SANE/FREEZE and Peace Action over almost three decades. Our local organization has always been about community. One of the first memories we have of the Freeze is preparing a newsletter mailing, with a number of people whose names I’m about to read, as our toddler sat on the table top and played. Our daughter is now 25. We’ve watched each other get married, raise children and pass on.
When I call your name, please come up to the podium as I say briefly how you were part of the 50 year history of our movement. This is a unique opportunity for us to all be together in one place and acknowledge we are all members of this community, committed to making a better world.
I’ll first mention three individuals who are no longer in
And one who has passed away - Helen Seidman
And now our 50th Anniversary Honorees, with apologies to anyone we may have left out: it took many more people than those on this list to build our movement -