September 21 is recognized by the United Nations as the official International Day of Peace, but there was certainly nothing wrong with the University of San Diego celebrating a hopeful occasion a day early on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Perhaps it was an attempt to adhere to the question Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez posed to those in attendance at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice’s Garden of the Sky: “Why can’t every day be this day?”
The university held its annual celebration of a day that was officially declared as such by the U.N.’s General Assembly in 2002, but previously had been celebrated as “Peace Day” since September 1982.
There was much for the university to present in celebration of peace — including the release of doves, introduction of this fall’s IPJ Women PeaceMakers and inspired music from Raven’s Grace, USD’s Choral Scholars, Nonviolent Peace Force and current USD student Diana Velazquez (pictured, bottom right).
Executive Director of the IPJ, Milburn Line, spoke of the need for such a day to “give a space, even for one day, the chance to envision the possibility of peace.”
But this event also offered USD a chance to announce its exciting potential as an educational leader for social change.
Line announced the university’s designation as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, one of only 15 universities nationwide to have this distinction, the only one on the West Coast and, along with Marquette University, one of only two Catholic universities.
“By designating USD as a Changemaker campus, Ashoka U recognizes USD’s deep commitment to educating students for social change as well as the institution’s capacity to contribute to the broader field of social entrepreneurship education and research,” USD President Mary E. Lyons said in a campus-wide statement earlier this week announcing the university’s selection.
“I can think of no better place than a university to inspire change,” said Vazquez who then slightly altered a famous line of India’s Mahatma Gandhi, empowering USD students to “be the changemaker you want to see in this world.”
Tuesday’s program began with USD students, staff, faculty and administrators participating in a traditional March for Peace from The Immaculata down Marian Way to the IPJ. Students carried flags from several countries and members of the Veterans for Peace organization followed with a black and white peace flag in tow. Many marchers had peace signs, Associated Students President Anthony Pavlovic wore a peace-inspired headband and there were signs of support from many campus organizations.
Once marchers arrived, they were greeted by off-campus peace organizations as well as clubs, academic programs and groups from USD including the United Front Multicultural Center, the Kroc School of Peace Studies and IPJ, Center for Awareness, Service and Action (CASA) and the International Student Organization.
“It’s pretty cool to be on a campus that has a peace program where students can participate and doing something to affect change,” said Estefania Corona, a junior international business major from Mexico and a member of the International Student Organization.
Pavlovic, perhaps, best summed up the day’s events by saying: “We all want to act in a way that fosters peace. There’s no one who inspires me more than my friends and people who are selfless and are always thinking of others. Those are my heroes. There are a lot more heroes out there. USD breeds it. There’s nothing stopping everyone from being a changemaker.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
View an International Day of Peace photo album at USD’s Facebook page.
The university invites all to attend the 9 p.m. Mass for Peace, which takes place each Wednesday in Founders Chapel during the academic year.