Paul K. Chappell, the peace literacy director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming G3X Conference at Mihaylo College this August. The advocate for peaceful and nonviolent solutions to personal and global challenges shares his ethos and passion.
As a high school student in the 1990s, Paul K. Chappell says he had many behavior problems and anger issues. Two decades later, the multiracial West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran (his father is part white and part black and his mother is Korean) is an advocate for peace and nonviolence in every aspect of society.
Chappell, peace literacy director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which seeks to inspire and educate peace leaders, says nonviolent and constructive problem-solving approaches need to be an integral part of the educational system.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t take peace seriously. We need to view peace and peace literacy as a skill set in the same way that we view math or engineering,” he says. “This isn’t something that can be learned in 30 seconds. We have to train in it, understand it and recognize the framework and history of how it actually works.”
An internationally acclaimed speaker, Chappell gives informative lectures on waging peace to educators and social-profit leaders. He notes that the same skills, such as answering with empathy and working to calm yourself and others in tense situations, can be used on the personal or community level.
“If you had a basketball game and no one is taught basketball, it would be a mess and everyone would understand why. If you had an orchestra play Beethoven and no one knew how to play their instruments, it would be a mess, and no one would be shocked,” says Chappell. “Yet we have a society and world in which people are not taught basic peace skills. Is it any surprise that the world is more violent than it has to be?”
From Waging War to Waging Peace
Chappell’s motivation to study and advocate for peace began in his childhood, when he grew up in a violent household. He witnessed the torment and despair of his father, who had served in combat roles in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. This would drive his desire to understand the trauma aspect of rage and alienation that is at the heart of many conflicts.
“I believe these problems are widespread around the world, and the geopolitical concerns we usually focus on, while serious, often neglect the things that happen in the home and on the street,” he says.
While serving in the U.S. Army, Chappell published his first book, Will War Ever End?, the first of seven on the art of peace.
In 2009, he left active military duty as a captain and devoted himself to full-time activism in the cause of peace, joining the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a United Nations-recognized, non-partisan advocacy organization that supports the vision of a nuclear weapon-free world.
Chappell recalls that, while studying at West Point, he witnessed firsthand how young talent is versed in the art of waging war, rather than the skills required to wage peace. “There are many good people who don’t know what the options are when it comes to war. In most cases, we have other options,” he says. “Consider how 300 years ago, if you had an infection in your leg, the doctor would amputate it. Now, we have antibiotics and other options that we can use before it gets to that point. It is the same with peace. But we have to be realistic that when things get out of control, nonviolence isn’t a silver bullet. We have to be proactive and prevent conflict.”
In researching the historical trends of war and peace, Chappell is struck by statistics demonstrating that peaceful revolutions are successful more than twice as often when compared to violent uprisings. These nonviolent movements have resulted in history-changing victories for the rights of women and minorities, democracy and economic justice. Chappell looks to historical advocates of social change, including Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth, as well as philosophers such as Socrates, for inspiration.
Peace Through Learning
Chappell envisions a future in which schools impart the skills and personal development necessary for the next generation to become peace leaders in their personal lives and communities. “I am inspired by many educators I meet,” he says. “I believe education is at the forefront of humanity having the ability to solve problems.”
Chappell is the founder of the Peace Literacy Initiative, which provides license-free lesson plans for K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and community organizations. Available for free on the initiative’s website, these plans provide age-appropriate advice for youth and adults on identifying the signs of aggression in themselves and others, as well as diffusion strategies focusing on respect, self-reflection, empathy and empowerment. Students are urged to trade the fear that can power aggression with calm and deliberate actions that support justice.
In recent months, Chappell has led workshops with educators in Oregon and Manitoba, Canada, to encourage the holistic implementation of peace literacy initiatives.
Impacting the Orange County Community at G3X
Chappell will be the keynote speaker for the Gianneschi Leadership Institute on Thursday, Aug. 16, part of the weeklong G3X Conference, which provides a forum for networking, continuing education and innovation for current and aspiring social-profit practitioners. He hopes that his discussion will prompt attendees to have a realistic, yet optimistic view of the world.
“I want people to have a lot more realistic hope and have some frameworks to realistically understand the world and what they can do practically to improve well-being in their lives and the lives of others,” he says.
For more information or to register for the conference, visit the Gianneschi Center’s G3X Conference page.