Wednesday October 17 will mark the 22 annual Westheimer Peace Symposium at Wilmington College. The first session begins at 10 a.m. in the Boyd Cultural Arts Center.
“I’m always excited about it, “ said Ruth Dobyns, Curator of the Quaker Heritage Center and the Coordinator of the Westheimer Peace Symposium.
Dobyns and the rest of the Westheimer planning committee have been meeting since January to organize the events that will take place Wednesday. The committee is comprised of Dobyns, Jim Boland of the Peace Resource Center, Erika Goodwin, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Randy Sarvis, Public Relations. Also serving on the committee are Ron Rembert, Marlaina Leppert-Wahl, Ed Agran, and a student representative, Zach Glendening.
“I didn’t expect to have a lot of input,” Glendening said. For Glendening, becoming a part of the committee was a “fulfilling decision.”
Student representatives for the committee are chosen out of those students that have served as hosts for speakers and other special guests of the Peace Symposium.
“My biggest challenge is doing research on who Ruth suggests. I have to try to gauge what people on campus will like,” said Glendening. He has served on the Westheimer planing committee since a few months leading up to last year’s symposium.
Speakers for Wednesday will be Lt. Col. Danny Davis, Karl Marlantes, and a panel consisting of Matt Southworth (a Wilmington College alumnus), Sabrina Waller and Jose Vasquez. All three panel participants are members of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
“We wanted to have a variety of perspectives and experiences,” Dobyns said. She also commented that creating a panel is challenging because the guests need to be aware that the time allotted is not only theirs but the other panelists’ as well.
Other challenges in planning the Westheimer included settling on a theme. The Peace Symposium cycles through four themes: Peace and the Environment, Peace and Social Justice, the Nature of War, and Nonviolence.
“We were headed down a path where the ground fell out,” said Dobyns.
This year’s symposium originally started under the theme of Nonviolence. However, the committee encountered roadblocks that made this difficult to effectuate.
Then, Southworth came to Dobyns with Lt. Col. Daniel Davis as an option for a Peace Symposium speaker. After that, the theme was changed from Nonviolence to the Nature of War.
Dobyns said that the Nature of War is a timely conversation. She was even approached by members of the Wilmington community who gave feedback about the topics to be covered Wednesday.
The topic of war is especially relevant in the upcoming elections and the preceding debates in which candidates will address veteran’s issues.
“You don’t have to be a pacifist or have an FCNL sticker on your car to know these are important issues.” Dobyns said she looks forward to hearing reactions from students who most often identify with conservative or pro military stances.