Peace at the Pub - War. What is it good for?

photos by Diana Daniels



Cleveland Peace Action

and CPA Education Fund

Peace House

10916 Magnolia Drive

Cleveland, OH 44106

216-231-4245

clevelandpeaceaction@gmail.com

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Annual Meeting - February 19, 2008

Remarks by Francis Chiappa, President, Cleveland Peace Action

Welcome to the Annual Meeting of Cleveland Peace Action and Cleveland Peace Action Education Fund.  I usually give a report on what we’ve been up to in the past year, and the prospects for the coming year.  But since it’s our 50th anniversary, I’m going to devote most of my time to that, and to honoring many of the people who’ve played an important role in our local history.

 

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 Iran, and preprinted labels to the Presidential candidates of both parties.  None of the remaining candidates is quite where we’d like them to be on Iraq, Iran, Middle East politics and of course that 900 pound gorilla that has been in our living room for the entire 50-year lifespan of Peace Action – the obscenely bloated and rapacious military budget, and the military-industrial complex it feeds.  It just keeps getting bigger and none of the candidates, other than Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul has had the courage to suggest taking away its food dish.  On our core issue of nuclear weapons abolition, the picture is somewhat brighter – check the voter guides here at the advocacy table or on our website at - www.peaceactioncleveland.org

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 Cleveland chapter of SANE, but we do know that the famous pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who has been wrongly blamed for the permissive child-rearing excesses of the present day, was a Clevelander in those early days of SANE.  He was writing books, teaching at what is now Case Medical School, and getting arrested for nuclear disarmament.

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.  Cleveland quickly became home to a very strong local organization and a dozen or so community action groups (CAG’s) from Lake County to Parma. Energy and funds seemed to pour into what became the Greater Cleveland NWFC.  We opened a small office on Bridge Ave., then a much larger one on W. 25th St., hired staff, hired more staff, and by the late 80’s we had 3-1/2 full time positions plus a team of neighborhood canvassers and an annual budget of $130,000.  We held annual Freezewalks to raise funds and awareness.  The press would call us for local comment on national news.  These were heady times. 

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 Cleveland that fall. 

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 Clinton to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, we also had to lay off all staff and relinquish our office space.  Somehow a faithful few kept the local organization going.  During this time SANE/FREEZE was renamed Peace Action, to reflect a growing concern with non-nuclear issues. 

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 America’s role in the world and to redefine what national security means.  We can keep spending money on war, or we can work for peace and spend the money on making our country a better place. 

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 Cleveland -
Monica Green

Polly Duncan 

Tracy Moavero

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 -

Chris Ball

Doris Belknap

Elliot Berenson

Roni Berenson

David Berenson

Betty Bloomfield

Don Bryant

Jeff Chernin

Francis Chiappa

Kathleen Corcoran

Dorene Davis

Marji Edguer

Musie Eisenberg

Mort Epstein

Rae Epstein

Nadine Feighan

David Flarsheim

Roma Foldy

Daisy Ford

Marcia Gallagher

Mike Gallagher

Ray Gonzalez

Craig Gordon

Kathleen Greenberg

Jeff Hagan

Steve Hegedus

Nelli Johnson

Beth Kean

Mick Latkovich

Lisa Lefkort

Nina McLellan

Don McPherson

Roz Peters

Rose Rosen

Paulette Sage

Lou Seidman

Polly Silverman

Jean Sommer

Bob Staib

Max Stark

Betsy Warner

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