At Fryeburg Academy’s annual United Nations Flag Processional this October, each flag-bearer was introduced and asked to say one word in their native language: respect. This event, held in Fryeburg, Maine, was highlighted by NAPF Peace Leadership Director, Paul K. Chappell, who delivered a powerful message of how to avoid conflict through respect.
“Most human conflict,” said Chappell, “is a result of people feeling disrespected. Universally, every culture finds these three things respectful: Being able to listen, being able to recognize someone’s worth and potential, and leading by example”
To end the meeting, Chappell charged all 500 students present, including 145 foreign students, to consider the impact it would have if they could improve in these three areas and how it could change everyone around them: at home, at work, in our community, and around the world.
“Our speaker this year,” said Greg Huang-Dale, advisor of the Fryeburg Academy International Club and ESOL teacher, “captured an essential element of our school’s success in this age: through mutual respect we become better listeners and learners. We become better at sharing our true selves and humanizing others. In the context of our diverse student population, we are breaking stereotypes and the fears that go with them.”
Chappell also spoke at two afternoon sessions with about 130 students each. One special twelve year-old student joined the classes. Fryeburg resident Luke Sekera left his 7th grade class in town to hear Chappell speak for the third time. Her mother Nickie Sekera, a local water rights activist, had brought him to two different peace leadership events and he asked for special permission to see his friend Paul.
Luke later wrote, “Paul is an easy person to admire because he has the ability to make people comfortable to learn about ‘waging peace’ I also love history and he gives the best history lessons!”
Even in junior high school, Luke saw the value in Paul’s work. “His lessons are important to my generation because it will be up to us to solve big problems such as climate change and armed conflict over resources. It’s never too early or late to learn about peace and how to use it as an educational tool as well as a ‘secret’ weapon for a better world.”
His mother Nickie later posted on Facebook, “So grateful that Paul’s out there showing our youth (and the adults that guide them!) a peaceful way forward. We all have a role to play in moving from a culture of war to a culture of peace.”