President’s Peace Commission

Image of President's Peace Commission LogoThe President’s Peace Commission fosters an ethical commitment to participate in the establishment of world peace and social justice. The Commission encourages respect for human rights and dignity of all people.

The Commission annually hosts symposia that offer opportunities for students, faculty and staff to grow in their active pursuit of peace and justice.

Through the symposia and other activities, the Commission seeks to build within the St. Mary’s University community a greater awareness of the Roman Catholic and Marianist perspectives on peace and justice. The President’s Peace Commission reflects the University community through student, staff, and faculty representatives appointed by the University President.

Spring 2015 President’s Peace Commission

Save the Date: Feb. 24-26, 2015

This year, we are turning to the St. Mary’s community for input in the final selection of a theme for the 2015 President’s Peace Commission. Read over the three proposals below, and then cast your vote here. All votes must be submitted by Friday, Sept. 5, 2014.


Proposal A

In the Pursuit of Peace: Chronicling of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement at St. Mary’s University

Forty-five years ago, St. Mary’s University students such as José Angel Gutiérrez, Mario Compeán, Willie Velásquez, Ignacio Pérez and Juan Patlán were leaders in a movement to combat rampant racial segregation in South Texas. They exercised civil disobedience by staging student walkouts in high schools, ultimately forming the political party La Raza Unida, aimed at representing the interests of Chicano Texans whose ancestors resided in the region before it was annexed by the United States. Gutierrez and other leaders questioned their parents’ generational belief that Mexican-Americans only had to demonstrate their loyalty to the United States through military service to achieve acceptance in white-dominated political institutions. Defiantly, they condemned draft boards for sending a disproportionately high percentage of Mexican-Americans into combat roles. Indeed, Gutierrez and other La Raza Unida leaders argued that Mexican-American youth should be fighting “in the barrios,” redressing the social injustices they face at home, rather than being “drafted and killed” in an undeclared war abroad.

This year’s President’s Peace Commission invites St. Mary’s University faculty and alumni to share their stories – recounting the significant role that St. Mary’s University played in the Chicano civil rights movement. Through their narratives, we will explore five key questions. First, what can we learn from the stories of the St. Mary’s University leaders at the forefront of the Chicano civil rights movement? Second, upon reflection, what were the successes of the movement and what work still needs to be done? Third, what connections can we – as a community – draw between these historical narratives and the political and social inequality we see today? Fourth, which of the numerous contemporary social justice issues inspire and mobilize members of the St. Mary’s community? And ultimately, what campus resources are available to assist students in utilizing their skills, talents and passions to pursue peace, social justice and the Common Good in their lives?

Tentative Panel Themes: The History of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement at St. Mary’s University, Social Justice and Labor Rights,  Immigrants’ Rights, Race Relations in the United States, Exploring Racial/Ethnic Identity: “Chicano” vs. “Latino,” Student Resources at St. Mary’s University: University Ministry and the Civic Engagement and Career Development Center, Social Catholic Teaching and the Common Good, Student Movements on Campus, The Dream Act and the Dreamers, Leaders in the Latina Civil Rights Movement

Proposal B

Brave New Families: The Evolution of Family Life in the United States

As Mother Theresa once said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Indeed, even as our society grapples with major global issues such as war, religious conflict, and poverty, the family consistently serves the central unit through which most people relate to the larger social world around them. While experiences within the family shape so much of an individual’s development and identity, family structure, family life, and family transition vary across time, space, and socioeconomic context. What families do and how they are understood is constantly evolving in the United States. The definition of “who” or “what” counts as family has come under intense scrutiny and, throughout history, has inspired numerous public policies, legal rulings, and intense public debate. Moreover, representations of the “ideal” family in the U.S. have changed over time, reflecting changing taboos, living standards and lifestyles, and increased levels of social heterogeneity. This year’s President’s Peace Commission chronicles the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of family life in the United States, and through this open dialogue, perhaps we can take a step toward creating a peaceful environment in which all families can flourish.

This year’s President’s Peace Commission invites scholars in the fields of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Family Law, along with leaders in the Catholic Church to discuss five key questions: First, how have the dynamics of intimate relationships and family life changed over the past several decades? Second, what challenges do modern-day romantic relationships and families face? Third, how can social and political institutions, like the education system, employers and government agencies, assist families in meeting such challenges? Fourth, how can we move the discussion of families forward – concentrating on which interpersonal contexts promote familial health, emotional wellness and economic stability, rather than merely focusing on what form families take (e.g. single-parent, same-sex parent, or unmarried-parent households)? And, ultimately, in what ways are families in the United States diverse and how can we as a society understand and appreciate such diversity?

Tentative Panel Themes: Family Life in the United States (Then and Now): How has the Definition of Family Changed throughout U.S. History?,  The LGBT Civil Rights Movement: From Stonewall to the Defense of Marriage Act,  “Are the Kids Okay?”: Understanding the Impact of Divorce on Child Well-being,  Intimate Partner Violence: How Does It Start and How Can We Stop It?,  Young Adult Courtship: The Rise of Hookup Culture,  Interracial Romantic Unions: The History of Anti-Miscegenation Laws in the U.S.,  The Evolution of Fatherhood: What Does it Mean to Be a Good Dad These Days?,  Divided by National Borders: How Immigration Policy Affects Families,  Teenage Pregnancy: Current Trends, Causes and Consequences,  An Historical Analysis of the Sacrament of Marriage and Its Contemporary Implications for Young Catholic Men and Women

Proposal C

Students in Debt, a People in Debt: Indebted to a Vocation?

College students strain to pay increasing university tuitions, incurring debt that may follow them for many years after graduation. Students worry that they will not find gainful employment, even with a college degree. Meanwhile, many people in the United States struggle with homelessness, food insecurity and healthcare. Unemployment and under-employment remain stubbornly high, and the work that is available tends to pay less than it did a scant few decades ago. We live in dread of impending layoffs, while the stock market goes up and the rich get richer. Indeed, our world is fraught with perils and our futures are far from assured. Where, in such a world, do we turn for hope and inspiration?

In an economy increasingly defined by complexity, global interconnectedness and uncertainty – how do we prevent ourselves from being consumed by fear and anxiety? This year’s President’s Peace Commission invites scholars, practitioners, and leaders in the Catholic Church to discuss four key questions: First, how do we encourage students to pursue a liberal-arts-based education – following their passions, talents and vocational calling, regardless of legitimate concerns about economic security? Second, can we make a living doing what we love? Or can we redefine wealth in non-traditional ways – more than simply a yearly salary and the conspicuous consumption of goods? Third, in a nation that seemingly values technical degrees in specific fields, why is a liberal-arts-based education invaluable to students and society as a whole? And ultimately, how can students use their degrees in the fields that they love to create a more socially just world that promotes Marianist values and the Common Good?

Tentative Panel Themes: Exploring the United States’ Current Economy and the Need for White Collar and Blue Collar Jobs; Governor Rick Perry’s $10,000 College Education Platform; Vocation versus Economic Security: Are They Mutually Exclusive Terms?; Strategies for Closing the Poverty Gap; Should We Limit Technological Efficiency to Ensure Peoples’ Employment?; Quality versus Quantity of Production: What Do We Value in This Country?; Job Security Versus Risk-Taking; Entitlement; How Do We Make Enough Money to Meet Needs Versus Paying For What We Want?

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