“If you want change, you can’t wait for someone else to do it. You must be the ones to get involved in politics and make that change”. These were the words of Yunsook Lee, as she compelled me and all the other female international delegates to get involved. She is the former South Korean Minister of Political Affairs and Women’s Affairs, and Advisor to the United Nations’ Association of Korea. In short, a woman on a mission with a empowering message.
She was the judge of the Peace Forum, where each of the 41 international representatives participated in, and delivered a speech about the importance of peace and how it can be attained. My speech focused on the idea behind “The Love Boomerang”, a viral video that depicts how a single act of kindness creates ripples of kind acts from one person to the next. Eventually, these ripples make their way back to the person who initiated “The Love Boomerang”. We are all connected, and change truly starts with you. As Mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a smile”.
My question during the debate period following our speeches was “Many that have seen this video believe the idea is far-fetched. What would you say to those that don’t agree or believe in this concept?” I responded to the question by first explaining that this concept really resonates with me and has been my experience. I went on to explain that anyone who has created lasting, peaceful change in the world had to believe in their individual power. It was this passion and belief that became contagious and allowed Gandhi to peacefully free India from British rule, and Mandela to end Apartheid in South Africa. All change starts from the individual, so we need to be that first domino.
I was incredibly honored when Yunsook Lee made me the recipient of the Peace Forum Award for 2014.
Hwacheon County was the location for a significant battle between North and South Korea, in 1951 on Paro-ho Lake. 100,000 people died from that few-days battle, but today, that location has been transformed into a symbol of peace, and literally, Hwacheon’s slogan is “World Peace Starts from Hwacheon”. The county has created various monuments that serve as tourists attractions while symbolizing peace, beginning with the Peace Dam on the Bukhan River, and Bell Park right beside it, where the World Peace Bell stands (created with melted down bullet shells collected from battlefields from all over the world). There is also a Peace Museum by the bell, where the hand castings of 12 Noble Peace Laureates extend for visitors to “shake” their hand.
The Governor of Hwacheon County, Jeong Gab-cheol, following the Peace Forum, had a separate selection of recipients to be Hwacheon’s Continental Peace Ambassadors. I was humbled to be selected as the North American Peace Ambassador this year.
This is an honor I don’t take lightly, and will continue to play my part in spreading the message of peace through my words and actions.