Medea Benjamin gave a talk at Book Passage in Corte Madera to a packed audience of over 75 people. The event featured three youth speakers from Next Generation. These articulate and impassioned young women spoke about the peace movement, youth involvement in local cost of war projects, an anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) campaign they helped create with creative costumes and door-to-door outreach, and their own committments to social justice work. The women offered a fresh new approach to activism in their own communities. Anyone who thinks the next generation is either apathetic or self-absorbed should check out their website for a hearty dose of inspiration and a reality-check into the great work that young people are doing both locally and globally.
CODEPINK would like to thank the wonderful staff at Book Passage for being so helpful, friendly, organized, and accomodating. Many people who attended this book event left feeling inspired to take action beyond clicking a button and sending an e-letter (following Medea's call to take to the streets and stop living life in the "business as usual" way), and took interest in CODEPINK's campaigns and reality tour delegations. They also left a little pinker, of course, touting CODEPINK t-shirts, yoga pants, stickers, and smiles!
||Medea Benjamin and Sydney at the book reading event at Book Passage.|
||A check shows how much money the city of San Rafael has spent on the war.|
||CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin and Rae Abileah stand with Next Generation's Sydney, Sylvia, and Eva.|
Eva speaks about youth involvement in various projects to stop the next war now!
Text of Sylvia Bingham's speech at the event:
My name is Sylvia Bingham. Roni Kruzman, director of Next Generation, an organization that empowers youth activists in Marin County, asked me to speak here today.
I graduated from Terra Linda High School on Thursday, and I was privileged enough to deliver the student commencement address. My speech was inspired by three things: first, five year olds, second, my graduating class, and last, Next Generation and my involvement with the peace movement. This last influence makes my speech immediately relevant to this event, this audience today; but you may also find that you have more in common with five year olds and high school graduates than you know. So if you will permit me, I'm going to give a tailored version of that address.
Do you remember when going to the beach was like going to war? Armed with shovels and buckets, at the age of five we were building sand ramparts defending castles against the advance of the waves. Forever, everywhere, five year olds mold sand into walls, knowing that hours later their work will be reduced to a lumpy pile of mud.
We were all born with an energy, enthusiasm and optimism that led us to believe that we could stop the movement of the oceans. As we grew older, the plastic shovels and buckets were replaced by more important tools of change; knowledge, intellect, awareness ... Yet the price of this education is often steep. Adulthood is too frequently accompanied by cynicism. Smaller battles and weaker tides than those we faced as five year olds seem insurmountable; toddlers would sneer at our apathy.
Maybe we couldn't change the ocean's direction. But there ARE tides that we can turn around. I know this because I have seen it. Last fall was a gloomy time for progressives; George Bush won a second term and declared taht he had received a "mandate" to push his repressive and conservative agenda. And yet election time also heralded a positive victory. In October 2004, the Terra Linda HS Peace and Justice Club joined the Next Generation campaign to promote a local proposition that would ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms in Marin County. We had forty TL students attend a lunchtime teach-in about GMO's. On Halloween night we went door-to-door informing voters about the environmental destruction and health risks associated with GMO's. The proposition to ban GMO's in Marin County passed. I see it as a great victory in the fight against GMO's, and against agribusiness and corporate wantonness in general.
Every fall, Next Generation holds an event called "Turn the Tide." I want to thank Roni, Danielle, and all the students who work for the organization for reminding me that change is possible. I want to thank groups like Code Pink and people like Medea Benjamin for reminding me that activists are changing the world in powerful ways everyday. And I want to thank five year olds for reminding me to keep building my sand walls and cultivating the idealism that will sustain me, and all of us, forever.
Text of Syndey Rainwater's speech at the event:
Hi. My name is Sydney Rainwater and I am 17 years old. I just graduated from San Domenico this morning and I will be attending UC Santa Cruz in the fall. I would like to say how grateful I am for this opportunity to speak with Medea Benjamin and my outstanding peers. I have been involved in the peace movement through Next Generation over the last two years. Since the beginning of the Iraq war, I have become more interested in and educated about the causes and effects of war. I have also gained some experience in how to connect with people over such a sensitive issue as war.
I have found that it is important to reach out and not to preach or try to educate, but to connect! It is important to be well informed of the facts behind an issue, but real people want to feel real love and concern. Beyond statistics, it is important to remind people of their humanity. We are all human beings and must remember to treat others as we would like to be treated.
I have never been the kind of person to stand by while an injustice is committed. It pains me to think of the damage that has already been done in so many wars before my time. Have we not learned from our mistakes? Because this is our mistake, until the war ends and the last troops come home, it will remain ours. We must be ready and willing to work towards a peaceful world where conflict can be resolved in negotiations where leaders sit as close as we are today.
Everyday, I hear the news of more dead soldiers and cry only to see that the majority of our nation has become numb to their deaths.
One experience that I like to remember in consolation is when Next Generation sponsored a house party at legendary war activist David Harris’ house with an amazing group of speakers. We heard from recent Iraq war veteran Dave Bischel, military mom Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, and Medea Benjamin. I was honored to hear them and to speak with them. It was a remarkable group of activists coming together from all walks of life. This experience reminded me that the peace movement that I so strongly believe in is not specific to one group of people.
I believe more than anything else that it is important to continue to reach out to other groups of people, especially people with different ideals. I have been lucky at such a young age to be involved with these incredible women working in such a movement. Peace