Who inspires you to work for peace? It’s a big goal that includes living kindly, treating each other with justice and caring for our planet. And Missoula is full of stories of local heroes who are showing us the way.
For 33 years the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center has told the story of one local Peacemaker and the Missoula Peace Quilters have made them a quilt uniquely designed to reflect their life and their contribution to the world.
Our Peacemakers have been lawyers, veterans, physicians, nurses, housewives, police officers, business leaders, activists and more. And all of them are proof that one needn’t be a grander than life hero — we all have opportunities in our own lives to impact the world for the better.
This year’s award went to Steve McArthur, a man of great hope and compassion. His commitment to peace is clear by his willingness to be a good citizen and walk lightly on the earth, composting and recycling, working the earth to grow food to share with others and volunteering for so many Missoula organizations – often with the latest petition on a clipboard for you to sign!
Steve’s wife and daughter entertained us all with stories of Steve and a comparison of how similar working for peace is to composting and gardening. Imagine, a garden of the wildest variety all co-existing together and imagine all the pieces and parts of all the plants going back into the community to keep it growing and thriving.
Others spoke about Steve and the Missoula Peace Quilters presented him with a beautiful quilt that shows – you guessed it – a garden of the most beautiful variety of colors. It also depicts the mountains of Montana and Tennessee that taught Steve to treasure this planet and call him to enjoy it regularly.
Steve is a presence — at nearly every Missoula rally calling for any progressive cause seeking justice and saving the earth. He is also a friend to many — offering the biggest smile, the warmest hug and the most contagious laugh. To be inspired by Steve is to understand that all lives have value and we each have a responsibility to respect and care for each other and our planet.
Our Peacemaker events have always been wonderful celebrations of lives well-lived and stories that inspire. But something was missing! This year we figured out what it was — the stories of younger generations who are bringing energy, passion and urgency to the work of building peace.
From a 5-year-old who epitomizes kindness and caring to a young Native American woman who is working to make an impact for the many missing and murdered indigenous women in our community and the dozens of young people from every school and grade who are organizing to fight gun violence, we found so many stories to share. And we found a group of young people excited to help us tell them.
They made the difficult decision of selecting one individual or group to receive our very first Young Peacemaker award. Fr. Jim Hogan, who organized the original Search For Peace award after 9-11 to engage the voices of young people, was happy to help and funded a $500 award to go to the selected Young Peacemaker.
Get ready to be totally impressed! Our very first Young Peacemaker Award goes to a group of 4 girls who have been working on social justice issues for 8 years– since they were 9 and 10-year olds concerned about the world. Wren Cilimburg, Ella DeGrandpre, Leah Samuels, and Madeline Swanberg call themselves the SOAP Girls which stands for Save Our Amazing Planet, and they have been working diligently to do just that.
The SOAP Girls focus on positive ways to make a difference, from the useful tips on their website for conserving natural resources (https://soapmontana.weebly.com) to the many causes their fundraising has supported both locally and globally. They have donated thousands of dollars to causes they care about, from Missoula to Nepal! They tackle big issues like climate change, saving animals and wild places, and improving quality of life for people who struggle. Plus they are working to inspire other young people by hosting a summer camp for kids ages 4-8 and an overnight camp for older kids.
These are the future stewards of our world – and they are already doing more than most to make it a better more peaceful and sustainable place.
Being named Peacemaker or Young Peacemaker is a great honor and an affirmation from the community that celebrates them, but it is also a calling to keep reaching and modeling peace. I have no doubt that Steve, Wren, Ella, Leah and Maddy will keep on inspiring us. Thanks to all of you for showing us the world that is possible.
Betsy Mulligan-Dague, is executive director of the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center
Missoula Area Sustainability Events:
First, Climate Smart Missoula has a new calendar featuring climate and energy related events – check it out here: https://www.missoulaclimate.org/calendar.html
July 24. Missoula Area Resilience Summit –How can we make our community more resilient to fires, floods, other problems? Share your ideas with local planners. 1:30 p.m.-4 p.m. Missoula County Courthouse, Annex 151 Public Meeting Room. More here.
July 25. Montana Conservation Voter’s Extreme Weather Panel: Flooding in Missoula. 6:00pm – 8:00pm Kulture Missoula, 420 N Higgins Ave. Details here.
August 2. Climate Smart’s Monthly Meetup – The Water, Climate and Energy Nexus. 5-7 pm. Imagine Nation Brewery. Free and all welcome. Details here.