Why ‘Putting Peace First’ is Important

On Oct. 24, Peace First CEO and Co-founder Eric Dawson, along with several Peace First staff members, arrived in San Francisco to promote Eric’s newly released book, “Putting Peace First: 7 Commitments to Change the World.” At the book launch event, young changemakers, Peace First supporters, and many others gathered to listen to Eric speak about “Putting Peace First.”

At the event, Eric was introduced to the audience by his longtime friend and American lawyer Jeff Bleich, who shared a heartwarming speech on how Eric has impacted him and inspired young people to follow their dreams.

Next, Eric shared some background on how he founded Peace First, why he decided to write “Putting Peace First,” and his message to young people. He spoke on the importance of giving young changemakers a seat at the table and how everyone needs to work together to provide young people with the support they need to create positive change.

Eric’s peacemaking journey started when he founded Peace First at 18 years old with a group of young changemakers. Originally a student-run program at Harvard University, Peace First has since grown to be an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people become powerful peacemakers. The organization achieves its mission by providing accessible online tools and support for young people, ranging from $250 mini-grants to digital mentorships.

“We have built a digital platform where young people can go anytime from anywhere – all they need is an internet connection – with the beginning of an idea that they have to create peace and social justice,” said Bonnie Benjamin-Phariss, Chief Strategic Engagement Officer at Peace First. “We achieve our mission by supporting young people between the ages of 13 – 25, (and) we support them on this journey to realize and implement their projects.”

Seeing how Peace First has propelled so many young people to spur social justice change, Eric was inspired to share the stories of some of these amazing peacemakers in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

“I think this book is a love letter to young people who know they want to do something good in the world, but have no idea where to start,” Eric said. “It’s part manifesto, part how-to-guide, and it’s built around the stories of real young people and their journeys to be peacemakers.”

Eric hopes that every young person who reads the book realizes how much the world needs them to take action and create positive change.

“The message to young people is: Who you are matters as much as what you do,” Eric said. “That you can make a difference in the world; you don’t have to wait, and actually, we need you (to make a difference). The world needs you.”

Throughout the event, Eric emphasized the importance of the three C’s in changemaking: courage, compassion, and collaboration. He shared that peacemakers are compassionate in helping others, courageous in sharing their own stories and breaking barriers, and collaborate with like-minded peers to work towards solving an issue.

Bonnie echoed Eric’s views on the importance of kindness and compassion.

“Personally, to me, kindness sits at the intersection of compassion and empathy,” Bonnie said. “At its core, it’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. When someone is truly kind, they see themselves in someone else. They understand how to cross lines of difference; they understand someone else’s intent and narrative. Kindness, we say, comes from the heart, but it also has to come from the head.”

This book launch event is part of a larger book tour, in which Eric is traveling to cities across the country to share his book and his story.

“I wanted to connect with young people (and) influencers because I think we have a moment where we can make a real difference in the lives of everybody if we give young people the resources and support to make a difference,” Eric said.

Sometimes taking that first step – whether it’s reaching out to an organization, applying for a grant, or coming up with a proposal – can be scary, but Eric’s message to young people is to “just do it.”

“Figure out what you’re passionate about, get a couple of your friends together – it doesn’t have to be perfect, but do something to make the world a better place, to make it kinder, to make it braver,” Eric said.

To learn more about the organization, visit www.peacefirst.org. If interested in supporting the mission of Peace First, you can donate, purchase “Putting Peace First: 7 Commitments to Change the World,” or attend one of the upcoming book launch events!

Crystal Chan

Crystal Y. Chan, 15, is a sophomore at Lowell High School in San Francisco, California. She is the Founder and President of her school's Days for Girls Club, which distributes sustainable feminine hygiene products to women in need and aims to destigmatize menstruation through educating her peers within the community. In her free time, she is a Reading Partners volunteer at an elementary school, a Girl Up community leader, and volunteers at her local library. Crystal speaks three dialects of Chinese in addition to English and enjoys trying new foods, watching sitcoms, and strolling through the streets of Chinatown.

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