Why We March

Why We March
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I attended every peace march in Washington against the Vietnam War. My mother, father, sister and I would board the Eastern shuttle from New York to DC. Early in life, these events connected me to a community of people with shared values and a shared vision for the country -- and the world.

It was also fun and exciting. Students put bubble bath in the reflector pool at the foot of the US Capitol during the march against the bombing of Cambodia in 1969. They jumped in and splashed around. I asked my father: "Pop, when will I be old enough to do that?"

These experiences left a deep impression. I was proud of my parents for their peace activism. My father was included on "Nixon's enemy list" for his work opposing the Vietnam War. He framed the full-page story in The New York Times, and hung it in his office.

My twin 12-year old daughters, their mother and I marched on Fifth Avenue last Saturday, the day after President Donald J. Trump's inauguration. I am proud of my daughters' commitment to social justice and women's rights; their love of country; their precocious ability to think globally and act locally.

I want my daughters to feel empowered. I want them to believe their voices are heard; what they do makes a difference.

Marching makes people feel connected. It reminds us, we are not alone.

When I was a young man, I thought I could single-handedly change the world, if I only cared enough, worked hard enough, devoting all my talents and energies to the greater good.

I realize now that change is a generational endeavor. There will be dark days. Other days, the future will be beckoningly bright. Sometimes we don't know the positive consequence of our actions. A life we impact could affect the lives of others.

At semester's end, I have tried to inspire my students. I ask what they might do to change the course of human history. Will someone win the Nobel Peace Prize or discover a cure for cancer or AIDS?

The Dalai Lama reflects on world peace. He says it starts with each person finding peace in themselves; sharing that feeling of peace with their family; building momentum towards peace in the community, their country, and inevitably contributing to world peace.

I am very proud of my daughters. They care about others. They have embraced the task to help to heal the world.

Marching is a catalyst for change, a call to action. This weekend, all across America, we helped launch a broad and inclusive social movement.

We will remain vigilant against intolerance, bigotry, chauvinism, and Islamophobia. We will resist the carnage of hatred. Love, not hate, makes America great. People have the power.

In the face of great challenges - today and for future generations - we march. My daughters will hold the torch high and pass the torch to their children, just as my parents did with me.

David L. Phillips is director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He is an author and activist.

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