During August of this year, 13 educators gathered in Hiroshima, Japan for the fourth edition of UME’s groundbreaking Oleander Initiative program.
Oleander educators arrived in Tokyo and were hosted at a warm opening dinner at Keio University, one of the leading universities in Japan. Keynote speakers included Shin Nomoto, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies who recently made an officially recognized nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize committee and Kelsey De Rinaldis, Cultural Affairs Office at the United States Embassy of Tokyo.
The following day, the Oleander educators traveled to Hiroshima to discuss, analyze and to be inspired by the city’s unique “culture of peace” in order to co-design effective and impactful peace education lesson plans for their students.
Following a week long immersion in Hiroshima’s culture of peace, an Oleander educator said:
“Peace is not simple. It’s messy, ugly. Sometimes beautiful, awkward, inconvenient and uncomfortable. I hope my students learn to unpeel the truth as they learn – that they won’t be passive accepters of info but scholars in search of hard truths of history.”
One of the major themes of the Oleander Initiative is the complexity of peace. Throughout the ten day program, Oleander educators experience the meaning of peace from multiple angles and viewpoints that are both universal and unique to the city of Hiroshima.
In 2019, the Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from individuals like:
Mr. Horie Soh, an 82-year-old survivor of the atomic bomb who emphasized the need to learn from the lessons of the past.
Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from:
Youth who were raised in Hiroshima’s Peace Education Curriculum, the only educational system in the world that legally requires peace education to be incorporated into every level of instruction. Students from the Jogakuin High School shared their own vision for a hopeful future with the Oleander educators
Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from: an academic perspective. Lectures included “Facets of Hiroshima,” “Hiroshima’s culture of peace,” “Hiroshima, When Sincere Wishes for Peace meet Reality,” and “Korean Hibakusha” from some of the city’s leading professors
Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from the grass-roots enthusiasm of thousands of attendees at the World Conference Against A+H Bombs
Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from the formal, governmental commemoration of peace at the August 6th Memorial Ceremony
and from local, community-based commemorations of August 6th from Japanese NGOs, schools and community organizations
But the real complexity of peace was generated by the Oleander educators themselves. The Oleander Initiative includes Americans from the north and south, east and west, urban and rural areas, as well as Red and Blue States. They join educators from seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa that represent the major communities of the region. It this constellation of diverse viewpoints that enables our educators to gain a deep, nuanced understanding of peace and their role in promoting it in their schools.
In 2019, UME included two educators from Korea, further adding to the rich dialogue about peace at the program. With eloquence, sensitivity and grace, they added their own perspective within the current context of political tensions and controversial history between Korea and Japan. Their voices added another level to the complexity of peace at the Oleander Initiative.
During the last two days of the program, Oleander educators applied their understanding about the complexity of peace into the design of student-led peace education projects.
All of us at UME are looking forward to their work and the impact the Oleander participants will make in their classrooms throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. To see examples of Oleander projects from previous years, click HERE.
Many Thanks to the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Otterman Foundation, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, World Religion Foundation, Jubitz Family Foundation, Jogakuin High School, Yano Minami Elementary school, and the Honkawa school, for making this program possible.