Working For Peace, Justice, and A Sustainable Environment

A Modesto Peace/Life Center Publication


Peace Essay Contest

My fellow Americans: 2008 Peace Essay Contest


During the upcoming 2008 Presidential election, candidates will try to persuade the voters that their position and action plans on a great many issue is better for our country and the world than the other candidates’. In the ensuing national discussion, voters will be flooded with information and will have to sift through the rhetoric to determine which candidate to vote for. In particular, voters need to know the candidates’ stands regarding how our country can participate in creating a more peaceful and just world.

The 2008 Peace Essay Contest invited each high School student to imagine that he/she is a candidate running for the President of the United States in the 2008 election.  After considering the many areas critical to the common good, each writer will chose one issue on which to focus and suggest non-violent, non military responses that the United States can support as part of its commitment to making our world a better place.

The 22nd annual Peace Essay Contest received 759 qualifying entries submitted by December 3, 2007. Sponsored by the Modesto Peace/Life Center, the contest was open to all students, grades 5 – 12, who live or attend school in Stanislaus County.

2008 Peace Essay Committee: Margaret Barker, Indira Clark, Pam Franklin, Elaine Gorman, Russ Matteson, Suzanne Meyer, Deborah Roberts, and Sandy Sample.

2008 Peace Essay Contest
Division I (grades 11 – 12)

First Place: Adan Magana, Johansen HS
Second Place: Spencer Lash , Johansen HS
Third Place: Yashlee Nazi, Johansen HS
Honorable Mention: Brenda Mutuma, Beyer HS; Rafael Delgadillo & Hayley Gordon, Johansen HS,
Finalists: All from Johansen HS: Douglas Vincent Amato III, Erika Bucheli, Anna Meyer, Ben Neptune, Shaylyn Ordaz, Cody Paulsen, Susan Phy, Dylan Ripley, Maggie Sniffen, Lauren Stevens, Tim Stuart, Crystal Sundburg, Andrietta Teixeira, Bonnie Towne
School Winners: Andrew Willis, Denair HS & Adan Magana, Johansen HS
A school winner was chosen for all schools with ten or more entries in this division.

Division II (grades 9-10)

First Place: Emily Matteson, Modesto HS
Second Place: Whitney Russell-Holcomb, Enochs HS
Third Place: Julianna Aguilar, Ceres HS
Honorable Mentions: Alexander Altman, Enochs HS & Michele Hurst, Johansen HS
Finalists: Ceres HS: Aaron Cunningham & Diane Macias; Denair HS: Josh Halvorson & Kayla Sweeten; Enochs HS: Megan Breshears & Jessica Salomon; Johansen HS: Lydia Carlson, Raul Hernandez, Bryan Keys, Angelica Martinez, Hilary Niel, Ashley Raynor, Edgar Sanchez, & Ryan Tesluk: Riverbank HS: Blake Costalupes
School Winners: Whitney Russell-Holcomb, Enochs HS; Michele Hurst, Johansen HS; & Blake Costalupes, Riverbank HS

Division III (grades 7 and 8)

First Place: Rehana Franklin, Ransom Charter School
Second Place: Emma Heinrichs, La Loma JHS
Third Place: Quincy Derouin, La Loma JHS
Honorable Mentions: Jorge Castorena, Teel MS; Sneha Modi, Prescott Sr. Elem.; April Williams, La Loma JHS
Finalists: Blaker-Kinser JHS: Rotem Berry, Amber Hammonds, & Robert Lerma; La Loma JH: Tatiana Doscher, Danielle Drescher, & Conner Purnell; Mae Hensley JHS: Montana Bull; Prescott Sr. Elem. School: Craig Jones, Kendall Smith, Emily Truong; Sacred Heart Catholic School: Jennay Huerta; &Teel MS: Alyssa Medina, Laura Sanchez, & Destiny Xiong
School Winners: Robert Lerma, Blaker-Kinser JHS; Josh Johnson, Knights Ferry Elem.; Emma Heinrichs, La Loma JHS; Sneha Modi, Prescott Sr. Elem; Michaell Rico, Roosevelt JHS; Jennay Huerta, Sacred Heart Catholic School; and Jorge Castorena, Teel MS

Division IV (grades 5 and 6)

First Place: Saya Lacey, Lakewood Elem. School
Second Place: Helena deGroot, Fremont Open Plan
Third Place: Andrew Stone, Dieterich Elem. School
Honorable Mentions: Kathryn Mastache, Fremont Open Plan &Monica Walker, Dieterich Elem. School Finalists: Adkison Elem.: Rafael Ramos; Agnes Baptist Elem.: Krupa Modi, Paige Phipps, Sophia Sidhu, & Faith Tsai; Dieterich Elem. School: Gina Nuccio; Fremont Open Plan: Brooke Hill, Molly Souza,& Liza Wallace; Lakewood Elem.: Paul Cappiello, Natalie Franco, Parker Steward, Kristen Vieira; Sipherd Elem.: Tanveer Moundi; and Somerset MS: Michaela Benedicto
School Winners: Rafael Ramos, Adkison; Krupa Modi, Agnes Baptist; Andrew Stone, Dieterich Helena deGroot, Fremont; Saya Lacey, Lakewood; & Michaela Benedicto, Somerset

Many thanks to the 2008 screeners and judges: Jim Beggs, Jerry Budin, Indira Clark, Monique Capp, Peggy Castaneda, David Franklin, Jeshua Franklin, Pam Franklin, Phil Franklin, Elaine Gorman, Judy Kropp, Linda McFelter, Andi McGhee, Suzanne Meyer, Mike Monson, Gill Moss, Linda Scheller, Shelly Scribner, Ruth Ann Spencer, Judy Ten Brink, Rachel Tyson, Amanda Woods, Brad Barker, Steve Collins, Jim Costello, Tim Driskill, Simeon Franklin, Sandra Franklin, Nancy Griggs, Susan Janis, Barbara Manrique, Russ Matteson, Ray Miller, Susan Novak, Dan Onorato, Kaye Osborne, Myrtle Osner, Sandy Sample, Judy Sly, Stacy Small, Tim Smart, Anita Young.

The Peace Essay Contest is a project of the Modesto Peace/Life Center.
Co-sponsored by the Modesto Junior College Department of Literature and Language Arts

First Place, Division I (grades 11 and 12)

“Saving the Foundations of a Free World”


Teacher: Miss Nielsen, Johansen High School

Our struggle for peace is not a violent conflict. Although the journey has unfortunately been littered with the bodies of patriots and martyrs, ultimately every single person fights the most important war within his very own heart, not on a physical battlefield, with bullets and bloodshed, but on the battlefield of ideas. We can not be free and at peace if we allow fear to become a tyrant and, in humanity’s continual search for safety, decide to embrace authoritarian government by dissolving our precious freedoms. There is no peace under tyranny because the tyrants either seek to perpetuate conflict for their own selfish desires or the subjugated rise up in rebellion, often only to establish their own autocracy. That is why Americans must realize that they are being scared into relinquishing their unalienable rights and that they must stop this process before it is too late.

Because our country was the first modem democracy, it has been, and must continue to be, a beacon of freedom for the world. From North Korea to Iran to Somalia, this country’s very existence serves as a timorous ray of hope for those seeking democracy and peace. It has been--to varying degrees of success--evidenced before: in the streets of Paris during the French Revolution, in the churches of Communist Poland, and in the stoic figure of the student in China’s Tiananmen Square. How can we continue this role if, out of fear of an uncertain future, we fall into the same trap that the citizens of the German Weimar Republic and the proletarians of Imperial Russia fell into? We cannot.

If we follow the politics and policies of terror, we cannot. Since that fateful, late-summer day, the Bush administration has manipulated the more than warranted feelings of despair and fear that this country felt as one. To what ends? I do not follow those who say that it was out of some dictatorial thirst for power. I do not even question the President’s intentions. But I must question his actions. The noble intention of keeping the American people safe has been used to make us less free, all in the name of a “War on Terror.”

It began with the Patriot Act. The cynically named act would not be out of the norm for a time of war, as often some liberties have to be limited. But, as many have said, “this is a different kind of war.” I agree. It is different because it is theoretically indefinite. Are we to believe that we can eradicate an evil ideology from every corner, every minute crevice of the world? What of fascism, racism, and Stalinism? Are they not still living, breathing ideologies, preaching oppression to new generations? We cannot destroy evil nor the violence of terrorism, and in a world full of peace and freedom we can only hope to push them to the fringes of society and hope that one distant day their voices are finally silent because there is no one to carry their hateful torch.

If a war is indefinite, and certain freedoms have to be sacrificed in a time of war, then are we to sacrifice our liberties indefinitely? We can not allow it. We can not allow ourselves to be scared into accepting the loss of liberty as a cost of war or a cost of liberty itself. We have to demand transparency in our government. A government “of the people” cannot exist if the people do not know what goes on within the government.

The obfuscation of government is no more apparent in the Military Commissions Act. This act allows for the indefinite detainment of prisoners that can be mistreated and tried without a jury and with information not available to the Defense, essentially destroying Habeas Corpus. The law is intended for terrorists, but at what point does that power spread? If it is allowed to stay as law, this act can be irrevocably and untenably misused by an overreaching President against a dissenting civilian, against a newspaper editor, or against the very people who breathed life into it. No one is safe on the slippery surface and one day we--or our descendents--may find ourselves, like Winston Smith, wondering what is inside the monolithic buildings of an Orwellian government, only to personally experience the cold, cruel potential of unchecked, unbalanced power.

Many believe that is a viable option to sacrifice liberty for the greater good, especially in an ever expanding “War on Terror.” It is only basic human nature to seek protection and safety from legitimate threats. It is an understandable position, a position of necessity. But it is also a position that lacks foresight and is built on a visceral foundation rather than an intellectual one. The sacrifices made for the greater good and during war should be those that can be recouped, unlike the freedoms that we hold onto delicately.

As President I would repeal these laws as well as end illegal programs of wiretapping, data-mining, and torture. I would lead a more transparent government, a government that the people can trust to be competent, trustworthy, and scrupulous. This may seem like empty campaign rhetoric, but the stakes are too high: either we reshape the government in the checks-and-balances mold, given to us by the forefathers of this country, or we allow the government to be forever stained with the mark of authoritarianism.

America must return to its legacy of freedom. We must again have the moral authority to be beacons of virtue, justice, and democracy. My administration will actively try to stop terrorism, especially against the masterminds of the attacks on September eleventh, but I will not allow civil liberties--the very foundations of our great republic--to be sacrificed in the name of national defense. We must remember the words of one of the framers of the Constitution, Ben Franklin. In his prodigious wisdom, he said, “He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither”. Another great leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, poignantly stated that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” The merits of those men’s quotes are innumerable, no more so than in the dark, troubled times that we live in. Let us not be slaves of fear, allowing it to subjugate us into chains of oppression. Let us be champions of the Constitution, of civil liberties, of our cherished freedoms, of our inalienable human rights. Let us all--every man, woman, and child--be paragons of freedom and peace, for that is true worth, the true meaning, of a democracy, in America and throughout the world.

First Place, Division II (grades 9 and 10)

Educate the World

by Emily Matteson

Teacher: Mrs. Bannholzer, Modesto High School

My fellow Americans, though we do a large amount of things that benefit our country and the world we live in, there are many issues that need to be reexamined or uncovered for the purpose of creating a better environment for all the people of the earth. One important issue for America is that of education, which I believe is one of the values that Americans treasure most, as it is a part of their dream of making something of themselves in the hopes of a fuller life; this is why I consider it of extreme importance for America to focus on educating the young people of the world. Providing an education for the youth of countries that otherwise could not supply it for themselves would allow for the people to better their own living standards, resolve conflicts among their people and with other countries in nonviolent ways, and it would also help the Unites States to understand the cultures of different people and how we can work together.

Educating the young people of the world would provide a knowledge that would continue to benefit the people and the earth for years to come. The daily lives of people in third world countries could be greatly affected if they were taught better ways to take care of themselves and their land. Efficient ways to get things like clean water, or methods for keeping up good hygiene are just a few of the things that if taught would make an amazing improvement in the standard of living for people of all ages, everywhere. Also, teaching important subjects like math and reading, along with other skills would allow for families to better provide for themselves through starting their own businesses or finding other forms of employment. Along with these skills would come improvement in communication, so that when conflicts arise between neighbors, different cities, or separate countries, the people will realize that these problems can be solved without violence or lasting hatred. However, dealing with this issue would go two ways: not only would these countries benefit from the education, the Unites States would also learn about the cultures of the different countries and how to better understand their positions on different issues. I believe that working with other countries and sharing some of the knowledge that we have would show a strong sense of community among countries as we worked together to improve life for everyone.

There are actually many steps that should be taken to ensure that the world becomes a more educated place. First, America can start investing money in the education of young people in other countries. According to the organization Give a Girl a Chance, which works at giving less fortunate girls in other countries an education, it only costs from sixty to just over one hundred dollars to cover an annual tuition for girls in places like Sudan. Funding the education of the youth of these countries would not be very expensive, and the results would be long lasting. Another thing that could be done is that we could put more time and money into the Peace Corps and give them more resources for going out to educate the adults in other countries about ways to improve their lifestyle yet also all of the children so that it may continue on in the future. We could build more schools in these countries, and the Peace Corps volunteers could train people that lived in the towns how to be teachers so that schools would be more common and easier for children to get to. One thing that America’s youth could to do to enhance their understanding of the world’s issues through their own education would be to not only pay attention in their history classes, but to make it part of the curriculum for the classes to discuss what is currently occurring in the world at the time. It is just as important that we are aware of what is going on in the rest of the world as it is that we know how things are going in the Unites States because it really affects all of us.

Some people might not think that educating the youth of other countries is the wisest thing for the United States to put time and effort into. They might wonder why we should spend money on the education and care of others when it could just as easily be put to use in America. Yet the purpose of supporting this issue is that both the United States as well as the rest of the world could benefit from this; the people of the world are all connected, and ultimately will all be grateful when the standard of living has been improved across the globe. There might also be pessimistic attitudes about the capability of others to learn new ways to take care of themselves and to handle situations. However, much work has already been done through different organizations such as Give a Girl a Chance and Heifer Project that are clear examples of the willingness of people to change for the better.

While there are many issues that are also important to creating a better world, I believe that in educating the young people of the world it would be like killing more than one bird using only one stone. It is not only the youth of America that will be the ones making important decisions in the future, it will be the youth of the world; with this it is important to remember that if everyone is educated, we will be much more united and productive when the world needs it most. Educating all young people would be a strong choice with positive results that would continue to benefit the United States, but more importantly, the world, immeasurably.

First Place, Division III (grades 7 and 8)

“Eradicating Poverty


Teacher: Mrs. Franklin, Hart-Ransom Charter School

To: Presidential Candidate

Dear Sir or Madam:

I would like to advise you to address the pressing issue of global poverty in your campaign. Along with the other countries of the world, the United States committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 at the Millennium Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders in history. The Goals include concerns that range from eradicating extreme poverty, to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, to providing universal primary education.1 The goals are set to be achieved by 2015 and I ardently encourage you to help make that happen by including the Goals in your general campaign, especially the goal of eradicating extreme poverty.

By endorsing the eradication of poverty you would not only be appealing to the general public but

the world. This is an issue that cannot be ignored. If you want to be seen as a president who cares, then we need to stop the inhumanity of 25,000 people dying every day2 from preventable causes related to poverty, and we must act now.

Here are just a few simple things we as Americans can do about this; during the holiday season the media can encourage shoppers to give a $5 gift for a mosquito net for adults and children around the world in an effort to prevent the ever growing spread of malaria. Another step our church is doing that the country can do is collect 2 cents every meal to give to a program working to stop hunger. Our church families donate this every month to the Global Food Crises Fund. Just imagine what good the loose change of every family in the whole country could do!

These are just a few suggestions; there are many things that can be done. The results of doing these things would be terrific. By increasing our economic resources to eradicate poverty, rather than spending increasing dollars on militaristic actions try to stop terrorism, we would change the world’s view of Americans and America. This would in turn be a peaceful way to fight the very ideas that support violence against Americans. Would you not like to see the people of the world viewing Americans in a new light, as compassionate people who care about the huge problems of global poverty? It would improve the morale of the country to know that more people’s lives are being saved than are being endangered.

Not everyone will think fighting poverty should be at the top of your list of campaign concerns. However if you would choose to do this you would gain the support of 100 other countries around the world, which would make the world a more peaceful place. The Millennium Goals were designed to not only fight poverty but also to unite the countries of the world. Is this not a just and worthy cause?



Division IV ~ First Place (Grades 5 & 6)
The Environment-An Important Issue for the Presidential Candidates
by Saya Lacey
Teacher: Mrs. Malekos-Quick, Lakewood Elementary

One area that I think is important for the Presidential candidates to focus on during their campaign is the global environment. The use of fossil fuels, the destruction of our forests, and the pollution of our water has had a huge impact on the world and must be focused on by our next president. The environment is very important to all humans and any leader in the world must think about how we can protect it. People have become concerned with the problems of the environment and are making efforts to change, so candidates for president must also work toward solving environmental problems if they want to be popular.
How often do you drive to school? Everyday most of us use a car to go to school, shopping or after school programs. This driving has caused a huge increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and has lead to global warming. Everyone must make an effort to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide they make.
There are many ways you can help the environment. For example, planting trees helps reduce carbon dioxide. Many countries have cut down their forests. Without these trees there is less oxygen, and more carbon dioxide which causes green house effects. This has changed the environment and will have a change in the way we live.
How important is water to you? About 96% of your body is made out of water and without it we would die. Something needs to be done to protect our drinking water. Currently more than half of the world’s freshwater lakes are at risk of pollution. Water is something that we should not take for granted.
For the reasons listed above, it is important for a Presidential candidate to focus on the environment. Carbon dioxide, which is created by fossil fuels, destruction of the forests, and polluted water are very important to people and should be protected. I hope that Presidential candidates and everyone think about these problems because they are so important to our environment.