IT became clear very early, as entries arrived for the Monitor's Peace 2010 contest, that young readers and writers were as deeply concerned about international conflict and threats to peace as were the older generations of entrants. Therefore, it was decided to select three winners in an additional, 18-and-under category, and to publish excerpts from their essays. In alphabetical order, these winners are: May-lee Chai of Vermillion, S.D.; Cynthia Davis, of Olympia, Wash.; and Stephanie Schwartz of San Diego. The entry of sixth-grader Sean Katz of Philadelphia was judged worthy of honorable mention.
The excerpts we've selected reflect a blend of youthful idealism and alertness to current events. These young writers realize that the threat of nuclear conflict appears very real and that international organization is not yet trusted enough as an agency for peace. They are also aware of the strategic importance of outer space and understand the implications of realizing that Earth, as Stephanie Schwartz put it, is ``only a small, little part of a giant universe.''
The paths to peace discerned by these young writers vary greatly.
For example, Cynthia Davis begins her scenario for peace with a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union that is contained before any overwhelming escalation. Writing from the vantage point of the year 2010, she observes:
``Global trends today seem to be leading us toward greater stability and prosperity. Governmental tempers do not flare as easily as they did before 1985, and for the most part there is a new maturity among nations when it comes to handling disputes. Economically there is more cooperation between countries, but at the same time there is a respect for aspects of economic isolationism and for cultural differences. Children continue to express joy in learning about new cultures, and exchange-student programs ensure an even greater degree of understanding among the next generation of world leaders. Just in time, our world has stepped back from the brink of disaster.''
For May-lee Chai, it was the Ethiopian famine crisis of the 1980s that galvanized world thought and action to guarantee peace. She writes of the impact of these initiatives as follows:
``All economies were stimulated. What's more, citizens felt good. Everyone liked the idea of feeding the children. It became a better bargaining chip than weapons and defense had ever been as far as gathering allies went. For example, a country could be assured only as much defense as the citizens of the other would tolerate. No one wanted to die for the impoverished, but sharing the wealth was OK, since it was painless. Therefore, more new money went into the Feed the Children Policy programs than for the military. In a sense, the swords had been bent into plowshares.''
It was a sudden occurrence of mysterious and alarming transmissions from outer space that, for Stephanie Schwartz, forced the world to rethink both its vulnerability and its need to be committed to peace. PEOPLE on Earth, she writes, ``realized that if the people of Earth were to have any chance of defending themselves against outside forces, they would have to be united. After a lot of deliberation and the realization that there was no alternative, it was agreed that all nations should send 11 delegates to a convention in Geneva, Switzerland, where some kind of a solution for peace would be worked out. Some countries were eager, since they had been anxious for peace all along. Other countries were more reluctant, but they went anyway, since they didn't want to take the chance of being left to face foreign invaders alone.
``It was decided that a form of international government would be set up. The job of this government would be to generally keep peace between nations. This would provide for a means through which all countries could work together to explore space and, if necessary, defend themselves.''
Thus, in a variety of situations, each of these young writers champions the urgent need for steadier caring, one for another, as essential to durable peace. They express a compelling expectation that rivalries can be revised, world attitudes changed, and, as May-lee Chai expresses it, ``a new track for civilization'' found.
Robert C. Nelson is the Monitor's feature editor.