Paul K. Chappell is the founder and Executive Director of the Peace Literacy Institute. He has an unusual background to be working for peace, as he is a graduate of West Point who deployed to Iraq, and left active duty as a Captain. He came to realize that humanity is facing new challenges that require us to become as well-trained in waging peace as soldiers are in waging war. Chappell created Peace Literacy to help students of all ages and backgrounds work toward their full potential and a more peaceful world.
Peace Literacy frames peace not merely as a goal, but as a practical skill-set – a literacy like reading and writing – that needs to be taught and practiced from K-12 through to higher education. Peace Literacy empowers us to create peace that is realistic, resilient, and sustainable, while helping us develop our full capacity for empathy, conscience, reason, and realistic hope.
Chappell grew up in a violent household. Born in 1980, he was raised in Alabama, the son of a Korean mother and a Black father who was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. These experiences were part of what compelled him to forge a new understanding of war, peace, rage, trauma, and our shared humanity.
This understanding is conveyed in his seven-book Road to Peace series. The first six books are Will War Ever End? (2009), The End of War (2010), Peaceful Revolution (2012), The Art of Waging Peace (2013), The Cosmic Ocean (2015), and Soldiers of Peace (2017). The final book of this series, still to be published, predicts enormous technological disruptions that will occur in the coming years and discusses how we can escalate our ethical evolution in response to these disruptions. This last book is titled The Transcendent Mystery: A New Paradigm for Understanding Peace, Trauma, Technology, and the Human Condition.
The Road to Peace book series also documents the paradoxical ways in which Chappell’s military experience overlaps with and influenced his understanding of nonviolence. During Chappell’s seven years of military service, he held a number of key posts. In 2004-2005, he served as a Tactical Control Officer for the U.S. military’s first-ever National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) Detachment deployed to the National Capital Region (NCR), where he was responsible for air defense of Washington D.C. and helped develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures for operating the NASAMS system in the NCR. In 2005-2006, he served as Deputy Chief of Doctrine, Training, and Requirements for Army Air Defense. In 2006, he also served as a liaison at DARPA headquarters (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for Army Air Defense. In 2006-2007, he served as C-RAM Liaison Officer Forward for Multi-National Corps Iraq, where he was responsible for the installation and system effectiveness of Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) Sense, Warn, and Intercept capabilities at Forward Operating Bases in Iraq. In 2008-2009, he served as a PATRIOT Battery Commander, responsible for the training, welfare, and safety of over 90 soldiers and their families; and for the maintenance and operational readiness of PATRIOT missile equipment.
After leaving the military as a Captain in 2009, Chappell committed himself to nonviolence full-time, training with several colleagues of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including James Lawson, Bernard Lafayette, and C.T. Vivian. In 2010, he attended James Lawson’s Nonviolence Program. In 2013, he attended the International Nonviolence Summer Institute with Bernard Lafayette and C.T. Vivian at the University of Rhode Island. All three of these men worked closely with King, organizing well-known nonviolence campaigns such as the Lunch Counter Sit-ins in Tennessee.
Chappell facilitates workshops for educators, community leaders, activists, engineers, veterans, first responders, and faith-based organizations, and teaches college courses on Peace Literacy and Leadership. Since 2017 he has led a team of educational experts, coordinated by Sharyn Clough, Director of Phronesis Lab and Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University, to design and teach Peace Literacy curriculum and assessment for use in public school through to adult and higher education. For more information about the Peace Literacy curricular project, visit www.peaceliteracy.org.
Chappell is helping to lead the global campaign to have education in Peace Literacy recognized as a universal human right, similar to how education in reading and writing literacy is recognized as a universal human right. Peace Literacy is the human right that equips us with the skills needed to address the root causes of societal problems rather than surface symptoms, heal tangles of trauma such as rage, mistrust, and alienation, and preempt the unintended consequences of emerging technologies. Peace Literacy is the human right that empowers us to protect all of our other human rights and fully flourish as human beings. In an era when humanity has the technological capacity to destroy itself, Peace Literacy is survival literacy.
PEACE AND MILITARY PHOTOS FROM THE ARCHIVES
(click on images to enlarge)
Pictured above with Lagilagi, who served in the Fijian military in Special Forces. He was tortured, had seven ribs and the bones in his face broken, and spent eight years in prison, but he has learned to forgive and is now an inspiring soldier of peace. He told me that when soldiers leave the military, they are still duty-bound to serve others, and he feels duty-bound to work for peace. His wise words remind me of the philosophy of West Point, which taught me that life is about serving others. (August 11, 2010)