Intercultural Peacebuilding students and their friends were sent to a “galaxy far, far away” on the night of Feb. 5th. The opening social for the David O. McKay Center sought to teach the attendees about internship opportunities and mutual respect for all. Each “planet” presented an activity which taught different peacemaking skills at the McKay Foyer.
Peacebuilding professor Shemaina Miller welcomed the students to “Jedi Boot Camp” as she explained the purpose of the event. She took a moment to acknowledge the land the group was meeting on as Hawaiian land, and “how grateful we all are to be in Laie, and knowing that it was a place of refuge way back before any of us were here, and even before these buildings were here. This land has always been sacred and special.”
Miller introduced the other peacebuilding professors as “Jedi Masters.” Among the masters was a guest, Professor David Pulsipher. Pulsipher is a professor and president of the Faculty Association at BYU-Idaho. He had been teaching at BYUH for the winter semester, specializing in classes about nonviolence and the Latter-day Saint faith in peacebuilding.
“Each of us have different experiences in peacebuilding,” Miller said. “I want to acknowledge that we’re grateful for you, [the students].”
After finishing introductions, Miller turned the time over to Pulsipher, who began his speech by talking about how all the people of the world are living at a remarkable time. “This is such a remarkable moment in world history,” he said. “I’m a historian, and I think that if you want to be anywhere right now where things are happening, the peacebuilding program is the place to be.
“As a historian, I often think, ‘wouldn’t it have been great to be on the ground at this moment? At the moment Benjamin Franklin flew his kite and he proved electricity is in the atmosphere.’ And if you think about electricity, electricity is something that has always existed, but gradually over time, Benjamin Franklin and others began to understand what it really was.”
Pulsipher continued by talking about how life-changing it would have been for him to be at one of those events. He spoke of the discovery by Benjamin Franklin, and how brilliant minds like Alessandro Volta, Michael Faraday and Thomas Edison worked to perfect it. He remarked how now, entire cities use electric lights.
He ended his opening remarks quoting Gandhi. “I study nonviolence. One of my great heroes is Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi. Gandhi thought himself a scientist. In fact, when he wrote his autobiography, he called his work ‘his experiments with truth.’ He saw himself as trying out things and figuring out how they worked in the field of nonviolent action. Peacebuilding is ultimately a means to see the power of love.”
Pulsipher finished his speech, followed by a round of applause. Miller explained the different stations for the social, which were represented by planets from the Star Wars galaxy, such as Tatooine, Kashyyyk, and Naboo. Students were told they were “padawans,” the name for Jedi apprentices in the Star Wars movies.
They were instructed to go to the desk in the McKay Foyer to get their “intergalactic passport,” which would be stamped with a sticker for each station visited. The passport could then be redeemed at the end of the night for free ice cream.
At the Arbinger Institute station, students were shown the different career and internship opportunities peacebuilding could give them. With the Imperial March playing in the background, David Whippy, a visiting professor from Fiji, answered any questions about internships in locations such as Oregon, Singapore, Arizona, and Jordan.
One of the more popular parts of the social was the Planet Kashyyk station, where the only thing they needed to do for a sticker was pose for a photo with a cutout of Chewbacca. Other stations included Tatooine, where students would have to mediate to resolve conflicts between farmers and Jawas and fight like a princess.
Lead by Miller, who also teaches women’s self-defense, the station had the goal of empowering each participant with the knowledge of how to stand up for themselves and confidently say no.
Annette Jisu Shin, a freshman from New York majoring in psychology, attended the event. According to Shin, “the social was really creative. The Star Wars music, decorations and everything else made it really fun for everybody there. I really liked the mediation program on Tatooine. It really put into perspective how hard solving conflicts can be.”