Peace one piece at a time

In spite of numerous diplomatic snafus in the past six years, the U.S. is still working toward negotiating peace treaties around the world, including a complex one with Iran.  Although the question of which countries have nuclear weapons affects everyone, it isn’t a subject that most people we see on the street are thinking about.

When the people in our neighborhoods hear about peace, or its absence, it’s more likely to be in the context of a place like Ferguson in Missouri.  The kind of peace being negotiated there isn’t about nuclear weapons, but about the laws of the land and how they apply to everyone.  Our justice system has to be just, it can’t be crooked.  And we shouldn’t have to get to the point that the public is rioting and ruling by mob, for justice to be served.  The laws of the land have to be stable and without question.

Sometimes when we recognize this, it’s already too late.  In ancient Athens, its leadership didn’t realize the situation they were in until their political and justice system wound up being ruled by mob, became reactionary, and then Athens crumbled and Spartans conquered then.  When we see warning signs today, our communities have to react due to unfair treatment as a signal, an alarm bell.  It is up to our leadership to look at these things in detail, and make corrections when necessary.

And sometimes these corrections have nothing to do with racial profiling or the use of excessive force.

To establish a criteria and better level of justice and service, we also need to make sure that municipalities are not fining and taxing the public in order to stay in existence.  Municipalities are not a profit center, and should never be used as one.  Let us never see the day when we are posting online a map of towns that don’t uphold justice, but are depending on revenue from tickets for their annual budgets.

Having greater community involvement would help prevent this.  Community involvement needs to play a role in oversight – and not just in police departments – to start creating peace, one step at a time.

But making peace is not just up to our communities and our leadership.  Sometimes even the most unlikely person can effect international events. That person may be you, and it’s good to remember that one decision makes a difference.  Recently I found myself involved in some aspects of international affairs when a visiting scientist from Iran who is doing research at Emory University found herself with a dental issue.  Most of us may not realize that without insurance and proof of residency, it’s very difficult to get medical attention.  Imagine you are a visiting scientist doing international research and you have a really bad toothache.  For me it was an honor to be able to champion a cause for the greater good, and through several contacts we managed to get the letter from the university indicating the status of the visitor.  With this letter my family dentist and close friend agreed to see her and provide the proper reference for the additional work (wisdom tooth removal – OUCH).

This young woman will return home in a few months and she will able to talk positively about her experience in the U.S., as well as being able to smile with no pain.  A small bit of peace was developed with some understanding.  Maybe it will take root and grow – from small resolutions like this one, to a better understanding between our U.S. and international communities.  Even international peace is achieved one piece at a time.

Pride in Leadership

Attending last Saturday’s banquet for the Georgia Wing of Civil Air Patrol filled my heart.

I have had a long relationship with Civil Air Patrol, starting over ten years ago with the involvement of children from our foster home, giving them an outlet and an opportunity to learn about serving our community.  Somehow that led to MY involvement in CAP as well, and since then I have been the Commander of three squadrons, CAP’s Emergency Services Officer, and the chair of the Cadet Advisory Council.  In addition to the annual summer Encampment training program, for which I developed the Advanced Training Flight (ATF) program for the advanced cadets.

I have seen a wide range of cadets participating in these CAP programs.  Some of these cadets have been honored with Commander Commendations, the Billy Mitchell Award, the Amelia Earhart Award, and the Spaatz Award.  Some have used their experience and interest in aeronautics to be accepted to the Citadel, West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy.  It has been a great pleasure for me to watch these young men and women take the examples set before them and use that inspiration for their own achievements.

At last Saturday’s banquet, similar to other awards banquets I have attending in the last 10+ years, the success stories were played out, of what these young people have accomplished: all the programs that they have worked on through the whole year, and evidence of the development of their leadership skills.  But at this year’s banquet, one particular cadet – with whom I’ve worked in CAP for some time and who has gone on to be a contributor to “The Hayden Collins Radio Program” as well, and from that experience and from various speaking engagements, has honed her presentation skills – she was recognized as Cadet of Year for the State of Georgia.

I am as proud as hell, that a cadet who not only survived ATF herself but then she came back to help lead ATF – that she has now been recognized as Cadet of the Year.  To me it looks like she was able to use some of the skills that the ATF case studies are designed to develop, emphasizing that one example makes a difference – and this is a very fine example.  I feel a swelling of pride that the point of those case studies, making the right decision at the right time, looks like it stuck.

My family believes that setting the proper example is the responsibility of every good leader. While the achievement and the honor belong entirely to this cadet, it makes me feel gratified to have been part of the examples that were set, and happy to be able to actually see some positive results from it.

Well done, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel!