At 100 years old, William L. Hammaker still working for peace
Ventura County Star - Camarillo , CA , USA
By John Darling, Thursday, June 5, 2008
Each month, William "Bill" Hammaker makes his way to the front of the gathered members of the Democratic Club of Camarillo . He will give his "two minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less" talk on the subject he knows best, the subject of peace. Since he is the group's designated peace promoter, this is his duty, but, more importantly to him, it is also his pleasure and passion to carry out this assignment, since he has been an active and articulate purveyor of peace for more than 70 years. Just because he is 100 does not mean he will be slowing down any time soon.
Today, the subject of war versus peace is one that rages, dividing us as a nation while causing conflict and strife even among family members, but, in Mr. Hammaker's view, all of this could be avoided if we all agreed that peace is the best path to follow. Unlike so many others, his belief did not spring up with America 's incursion into Iraq , nor did it sprout from our involvement in Vietnam or Korea . His convictions predate these.
Seventy-two years ago, in 1936, he recalls giving a speech about peace while standing on the steps of Gilman Hall at Johns Hopkins University where he was working as the executive director of the student YMCA. His speech was not a reaction to the rumblings of a war in Europe that the American people were hearing about at that time. Instead, he stood on those steps to make his pitch for peace because he believed it to be the only way to live, a certainty he still has to this day.
His growing interest in the peace movement was spurred on after reading the 1930 seminal book, "The Fight for Peace," by Devere Allen. It outlines the work of the peace movement from its beginnings to that date. After reading the work, he became a lifelong disciple of the peace movement.
To satisfy this passion for peace, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation more than seven decades ago. FOR officially began its work in 1915, but its idea sprang from a chance meeting a year earlier that took place at a railroad station in Germany. Henry Hodgkin, an English Quaker, and Friedrich Sigmund-Schultze, a German Lutheran, had been attending an ecumenical conference in Switzerland . The attendees sought ways to prevent the start of World War I, but before the conference ended, war had broken out.
Undaunted, the two men pledged to work together. Within a year, FOR was established with its mission being replacement of "violence, war, racism and economic injustice with nonviolence, peace and justice." The group ultimately envisions a world of "justice, peace and freedom" for all mankind.
Among the past members of FOR are Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and Jane Addams. Current members include Bonnie Raitt, Pete Seeger, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, the Dalai Lama and, of course, William Hammaker.
Mr. Hammaker first came to Ventura County in 1945 while he and his wife, Twila, were on their way to Bremerton, Wash., where he had been assigned the job of shutting down an industrial USO. They never reached their destination because, when they passed through the small town of Piru , and smelled all the blossoming orange trees, they fell in love with the area. Mr. Hammaker was talented and fortunate enough to be offered the job of director of the Ventura County YMCA, a position he held for the next 23 years. In 2006, Mr. Hammaker summed up his position on peace in the world in a letter to FOR's national office. He said: "Our purpose, peace, is the best goal on our planet. In fact, if we fail to achieve it, nothing else would matter."
Updated: May 28, 2008 01:02 PM EDT
by Josh Poland
COLORADO SPRINGS - It was not all pomp and circumstance at the Air Force Academy Wednesday morning. With the war in Iraq , protestors have become a common sight at Air Force Academy graduation ceremonies. So it should come as little surprise that protestors were there once again this year with President George W. Bush in town.
Sign after sign lined the entrance to the Academy's north gate entrance. In all, about twenty protestors, both young and old, voiced their opposition to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq .
"I just really don't like George Bush and the war that much," says Peter Rule, who was protesting with his grandmother.
"We believe that Bush is illegitimate and we're here to show our opposition to that and to be a voice for peace and justice in a time when we still have a leader in power who is committed to the exact opposite," says Peter Haney, Director of the Peacemaking Program at the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. Haney's group was responsible for organizing the protest.
While some in attendance are opposed to the military in general, others made a point to separate the cadets from their commander.
"Yes, it's a graduation and this is the venue where Bush happens to be speaking and I feel like I'm protesting Bush, not necessarily the commencement or the soldier's work or the cadets in this case," says Sophie Glass, a student at Colorado College.
Several protestors say that depending on the status of the war and the commencement speaker, they could very well be protest again at next year's ceremony.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs