Review & Photos from 4th Annual Peace Conference
Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel
Feb 3rd & 4th
Weekend of February 2nd through 4th was the 4th Annual Peace Conference down in Washington DC. I met up with Susan at her apartment on the upper eastside that Friday morning and Jade also joined us. Susan joined NYDoP core team end of 2006 and Jade came onboard after learning about conference the week before. We all piled into her car rental and headed out of Manhattan around 11am. As we headed south the weather became more overcast, cooler and wet. The ride down was lots of fun and we engaged in conversation on a variety of topics. I utilized Susan’s cell phone halfway down to let my friend Nancie know I was on my way. I’ll be staying with Nancie and Tim at their lovely home in VA. Susan, Jade and I stopped at one of the last rest stops in NJ for abit of lunch and then back on Interstate 95. The interstate doesn’t go thru much of Delaware, but they sure do have a lot of pricey tolls. Mon dieu! Susan is a fast, reliable driver and we made good time, arriving at the Westin Arlington Gateway hotel around 3:30pm. Susan was staying at the hotel; Jade and I were staying with friends in different parts of eastern Virginia. After utilizing the restroom etc, Jade and I headed for the Metro station. At the Metro station we encountered other peaceniks from Utah & Colorado. They are great folk and such cheerful, optimistic personalities. Kind locals helped us in getting cards for the Metro. Took the “orange” line five stops to Vienna stop where Jade and I waited for our friends. By this time the weather is wet, windy and a nasty chill in the air. Nancie showed up at 5:30pm and we headed back to her home. After unpacking, freshening up and calling Mom the three of us headed out for dinner at a Japanese buffet in Fairfax. Nancie and Tim treated me to delicious food and the selection was great. Than we headed back to their home, relaxed abit and then put on swimsuits for the leisurely soak in their hot tub/Jacuzzi. That felt so good!
Up early the next morning and had tasty, healthy breakfast with Nancie before she drove me to Metro station at 8:45am. Arrived in plenty of time, registered early, sold a peace bracelet, engaged in conversation with others and scanned the area in the hotel for other New Yorkers. Spent some time before conference began looking for NY contingent and our sign. [We never did find our sign, as Peace Alliance didn’t make one. I didn’t care for that one bit.] Just before 10am I found David and then we located others to sit in the back of auditorium. Over the weekend 20+ from NYC and NY State would converge into our main group. That Saturday morning there was Carol, Kevin, Chris, David, Marianne, Jade, Susan, Gay, Dawn, Joe, Howard, Nancy, Barry and I. The wonderful Dot Maver opened up the conference to cheering of many participants. Next up was Aaron Voldman from Student Peace Alliance. This was followed by guest singer Jimmy Demurs, who sang beautifully without any musical accompaniment. Then Marianne Williamson took to the stage and had everyone meet your neighbors. This was quite fun and I briefly chatted with ladies from Colorado. Marianne spoke at length about a number of topics relating to peace and nonviolence. Then she introduced a mystery guest, and we were all delighted when Congressman Wynn [D] from Maryland stepped up to the podium to speak. He stressed that “diplomacy is important” and that “peace requires engagement and dialogue”. He is so right! At 11am Lynn McMullen talked with us about the Grassroots Success Stories. Many state coordinators [including Kevin & Carol from NY] related stories and events happening in their states for peace.[NYDoP State Coordinator, Kevin Fagan, standing at right & waiting to speak]
Lynn mentioned that we had 190 congressional meetings lined up for Feb 5th and 6th, plus 690 participants at the conference. We all cheered and applauded … many of us attended the conference in Sept 2005 and 475 participants at that time. We are making strides and it feels damn good. City Council DoP resolutions are happening and around the country many chapters are engaging in events/projects.
At 12:30pm we broke for 1 ½ hours to nosh on lunch. Joe reserved a table for some of us in the hotels restaurant. I sat down with Joe, Howard, Dawn and her boyfriend Bill for a tasty meal and fascinating conversation. Before heading back to the ballroom, I checked to see if Elly and Sarah had shown up. [They are my ride back to NYC & I wanted to connect with them.] No sign of them and name tags still waiting. Sigh! At 2pm everyone congregated again in the main ballroom for the rest of the afternoon activities, talks and breakout sessions. Lynn McMullen shared more stories of grassroots success and Marianne Williamson talked about language and message discipline. It’s important to convey and bring forth in such a manner during these upcoming meetings with congress. She also talked more about the bill and legislation summary. Also, Marianne mentioned that Senator Ted Kennedy was very much interested in a pro-active DoP bill. This news brought joy to many in attendance. She stressed that we fill out the provided postcards, so they can be mailed to the senator’s office promptly. We need to keep him interested.
At 4pm we broke up into groups, so as to attend specific workshops. Jade and I attended the one on “working with the media & press” for 1 ½ hours. Several journalists were taking part in it and I really enjoyed all that was discussed. Advice on how to get and handle press and/or TV interviews. Sending letters to editors of newspapers/magazines. How to get ones Op-Ed published and/or more out of blogsphere. The latter one was of great interest to me, but overall, I found everything of equal fascination. Priorities included talking points, deadlines, focus, opinions, viewpoint, challenging questions, show passion in topic, communication, enthusiasm, and dressing for success and no jargon were some key phrases emphasized. Also stressed is that reporters prefer good material, quotes, making connections, networking, focusing on pro & not anti. Plus, press releases need to be jazzed up. I took lots of notes and listening to the dialogue/exchanges was equally enthralling.
At 5:30pm we adjourned for a two hour dinner break and our NY team [15+] headed off to a Thai place. I checked in with Kevin and Chris regarding Elly and Sarah. Still no sign of them and I was annoyed with myself in forgetting to bring Elly’s cell phone number with me on the trip. Duh! Everyone was engaged in many lively conversations and ordering our food took awhile.
I gathered that this particular restaurant isn’t used to large groups descending on them during dinner. As it got closer to 7:30pm we still hadn’t been served dinner, so many of us, me included, decided to get it to go. I had ordered the veggie pad Thai meal and took it back to hotel ballroom. [Weather was cold and windy that weekend & I’m glad I dressed in layers.] Found a seat and during the musical entertainment I noshed on my meal, which, I might add, was really delicious. Yummy! Country music artist, Carly Goodwin, performed and was accompanied by Josh Kear on guitar. I’m not a big fan of country music and found Ms Goodwin’s music to be pleasing. Then it was time for the main attraction that evening … Deepak Chopra spoke for over an hour to a full ballroom. It was standing room only for this segment. I’ve only heard him speak on public broadcasting television and for the most part, I wasn’t overly impressed. Don’t mean to ruffle anyone’s feathers, but I must speak with honesty and clarity. If you asked me what he talked about, I’m sorry to say, I just don’t remember. At least most of the audience was enthused by his presence and words. Afterwards, I utilized Jade’s cell phone to call Nancie; I left the hotel at 9:40pm and jumped on the Metro back to Vienna, VA stop. Nancie was waiting for me and we drove back to her house. I was beat and went straight to bed.
Next morning, after a delicious and refreshing breakfast, I put suitcase in Nancie’s van and she drove me to the Metro station. I arrived in plenty of time before things started at 10am. Still no sign yet of Elly or Sarah and I was getting more and more agitated. I sat with Joe and Carol in the front row with a nice view of left side of stage. The hour and a half segment was titled “Share the Spirit of Peace” and it was aptly named. First off … a Peace Alliance award to given to Matthew Abrecht for his outstanding work and dedication to DoP campaign. Then Rickie Byars Beckwith sang three great spiritual songs and got a majority of the audience on their feet. This segment was followed by Jimmy Demers singing a beautiful version of “America the Beautiful” without music. It was so moving and we gave him a standing ovation. Marianne Williamson spoke briefly before introducing Rev Michael Beckwith, who is spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center. His sermon was energetic, uplifting, optimistic and at times some humor. I was far more impressed with Rev Beckwith than Deepak Chopra. Then the hour before lunch break was Lynn McMullen talking about fundraising. Many goals we need to tackle and challenges ahead. On the way to lunch, with rest of group, I was trying to control my anxiety regarding getting back to NYC. Weighing all my options and deciding on a course of action. As several of us were sitting down, Kevin came in and announced two New Yorkers would be joining our group. He gives me a smile and introduces Elly and Sarah. A profound relief flooded my being and I jumped up to give the ladies heartfelt hugs. I was so happy I almost cried, but managed to tone that emotion.
Everyone had a great time at lunch and we also engaged in discussion/organization of the teams congressional meetings over next two days. Groups of four would go to different meetings and then all converge at around 2pm for the meeting in Senator Clinton’s office with her chief of staff. I’d be with them all in spirit, as I had to be back to work next day.
At 2:30pm a majority of our team headed back to the ballroom for more congressional training. Elly, Sarah and I grab our belongings, and then head out to the car. Weather is still cold, windy and abit overcast. Sarah took command of the wheel, but before driving out of DC, the ladies wanted to see and visit the Jefferson Memorial. I had no objections to this side trip and a visit to any of the memorials sounded great to me. The parking area was closed near the Jefferson, so we decided to visit the FDR Memorial. This site is relatively new and opened a few years ago, so none of us had visited it. Cold though it was and very few tourists in sight, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through this serene memorial. We all read the inscriptions/quotes, plus had our pix taken next to statues of FDR and his wife Eleanor.
Then it was back to the car and a four hour drive to NYC via Interstate 95. Along the way we made one pit stop at a rest area for light refreshment. Throughout the ride we conversed about numerous topics; such as work, men, families, kids, peace, enlightenment, events and this organization called Landmark Education. They both live on the Queens/Long Island border and insisted on driving me home to northern Brooklyn. So very sweet and thoughtful of them … arrived home between 9pm and 10pm. Tired, but jazzed about the weekend and all the challenges ahead of us. One of which is working on getting my congresswoman to co-sponsor the bill, like she’d done 3 times before, and also work on getting a meeting with her. If any of my readers live in Brooklyn, or NYC area, take a moment and contact Congresswoman Velazquez and kindly ask her to co-sponsor HR808 today. Many thanks … peace is the only way. To learn more about the Dept of Peace; check out www.nyc-dop.com OR www.ThePeaceAlliance.orgQUOTE OF THE DAY
... Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) Rocky is Calling for Uprooting of Bush - He's Joining Washington State on a Resolution
Doug Smeath, Deseret Morning Newshttp://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,660199482,00.htmlAlmost Every Aspect of Iraqi Life has Gotten Worse in the Last Four Years - Operation Deepening Nightmare
Patrick Cockburnhttp://kucinich.us/node/3736The website below is a national list of KUCINICH meetups
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