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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SPA to hold national conference

Published: October 19, 2007
Section: News

This weekend Oct. 19-21, the Student Peace Alliance will host the first annual Student Peace Alliance (SPA) National Conference at Brandeis. The conference, which SPA has been worked on since last April, and will allow students nationwide the chance to bond over the common goal of building peace and creating a U.S. Department of Peace, said organizers.

Student Peace Alliance founder Aaron Voldman 09 described the group as the national youth movement to establish a Department of Peace. We advocate for peace and support peace building on our campuses and in our communities.

The last six months have been a blur of organizing, said Brandeis Student Peace Alliance member and National Managing Director of the Student Peace Alliance Julia Simon-Mishel 09 in an email to The Hoot. Since high school and college students from all around the country will be in attendance, Simon-
Mishel said, there is an extra amount of logistical planning which must occur.

Simon-Mishel explained that the origins of the conference date back to last Februarys Peace Alliance D.C. Conference, at which 70 students voiced their desires for a conference of their own. Simon-Mishel said we discussed the possibility within the SPA National Coordinating Committee and determined that we would hold our First National Conference in Fall 2007.

Student Peace Alliance was formed at Brandeis in March 2006, and Simon-Mishel said she was proud to witness such a large-scale event take place after only a year and a half of the groups existence. She explained this conference is huge for SPA[and] gives students across the country the opportunity to bond over the common goal of building peace and creating a U.S. Department of Peace. She added for Brandeis, this is one of the largest activist events to ever happen on campus.

Voldman explained in an e-mail to The Hoot that Arun Gandhi, Mohatma Gandhis grandson, will speak on Friday at the conference about the need for a Department of Peace. In addition, Friday will also feature leaders in peace education, community violence prevention and international peace building and negotiation.

Meanwhile, Saturday will feature a series of workshops to help attendees develop organizing skills. Saturday evening, attendees will attend a speech by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Betty Williams and afterwards a concert by The Flobots and Albedack.

Finally, on Sunday, attendees will listen to innovators in the fields of Economics of Peace, Arts and Peace, and there will also be an introduction to the international movement for Departments and Ministries of Peace. The conference will end with a discussion regarding the practicality of taking what attendees learned from the conference home to their respective communities.

In describing the purpose of the event, Voldman said that it is aimed towards identifying the solutions that are already effectively building peace, how a Department of Peace will build upon what is working, and how our generation will shape a national youth movement to call for a Department of Peace.

SPA now features over 40 chapters nationwide and expects around 300 students to attend the conference. Around 30 Brandeis students are volunteering at the conference this weekend. They are great and we could have not asked for better [SPA] members, said Simon-Mishel, adding that the group is always looking for more students to join who have the desire to effect positive change.

SPA member and volunteer Jamie Fleishman '11, said he was excited that right here at Brandeis were having the first ever national Student Peace Alliance conference. Fleishman believed that this event would put SPA on the map as a real mainstream organization on campus.

Simon-Mishel said she felt the SPAs vision to have a campus group just focusing on the Department of Peace has become a reality. It is both a nightmare and a dream come true, she said. It is scary to think that everything I have been working for is only two days away, but at the same time I am so excited.

Voldman is excited to host the [SPA] national conference and continue to make it known that Brandeis strongly supports the creation of a world that works for everyone.

Of the event, Voldman said, it is essential that we as a people and that we as a generation make it known that our government must prioritize peace through the establishment of a Department of Peace, adding that he is excited to see [everyones] work turn into such an enjoyable and productive event.