It was indeed a fun and rewarding evening. While I believe the greatest reward is still seeing how much each year's PeaceCamp delegates get out of the experience, I have to admit it feels good to get recognized for the work one has done. My comments from the Awards dinner seemed worth sharing:
SBCA Humanitarian Award 2016
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We can consider this award a salute to two characteristics of Small Businesses - the autonomy to set your own schedule, and the opportunity to go into business with your friends.
I have been able to nurture this project because my cofounder, and the inventor of the ergonomic aerospace sanding technology we sell, was a camper of mine more years ago than I care to count, and has supported my desire to keep returning to that camp when any normal job would have fired me for taking so much time off in the summer.
While ISIS is attracting all the headlines recently, we have lived for many years in a world where resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine is to attack the root cause and the rallying cry of global terrorism. Many, embittered by years of conflict, see this resolution as impossible, claiming that Israel and Palestine can have no peace until they both have leaders capable of guiding their people across the chasm of violence, politics, and rhetoric that divides them, and no such leaders now exist.
Which is why it is so important that we start creating them.
The PeaceCamp Initiative was founded with the conviction that lasting peace requires men and women who can bridge a history and habit of bitterness with bonds of friendship and trust. The program selects Jewish and Arab youth leaders, all of them participants in Budo for Peace, a martial arts organization that gives Jewish and Arab students of Karate, Judo, or Aikido the chance to train together in harmony, and brings them to a sports camp in America. The residential summer program at Susquehannock - team and individual sports, with a spring-fed lake clean enough to drink, horseback riding, mountain bike trails, wood shop, craft shop, and a climbing tower - has since 1905 been teaching boys and girls from all over the world tolerance and respect for others, how to deal gracefully with conflict, and a sense of fair play.
In other words, this traditional American summer camp has been teaching, for more than 100 years, exactly the lessons that forging peace requires. The Jewish and Arab youth that the PeaceCamp Initiative brings to America experience a world without bullets or bombs, without panic or pain, without refugees or resentments. They learn to trust and value each other as teammates, as cabin mates, and as friends. They start, most importantly, to outgrow their inherited enmity.
These young men and women also, in turn, become leaders amongst their peers, and start sowing seeds of peace and tolerance in a land where both are scarce.
Your generous contribution today makes this task a little easier, and helps me spread the idea a little more broadly that peace is possible if we start now.
As a final thought - as small business owners you have acquired the most important humanitarian tool in existence - you already believe that you can make a difference - and therefore you are already equipped, if you have an idea that might make the world a better place, to start making it happen. In a few years - you could be standing here getting the same encouragement I am enjoying this evening, and you’ll know all the effort was worthwhile.