2014 Gandhi Award Given To NFP

by Mark Welsch
NFP Omaha Coordinator

Nebraskans for Peace was the recipient of the 2014 Gandhi Award, presented by The Grace Abbott School of Social Work at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Customarily, this annual award—named in honor of the legendary Indian nonviolent activist, Mohandas Gandhi—goes to an individual. But Nebraskans for Peace was honored in recognition of its 44 years of service as the nation’s oldest statewide Peace & Justice organization. This award is a tribute to everyone who has ever been a member of NFP.

NFP President Mark Vasina and State Board member Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, accepted the award on the organization’s behalf from the School’s director, Dr. Amanda Randall. In the audience were approximately 25 NFP members, including long-time activists Loyal Park, Virginia Walsh, El Siebert, Anne Else, Henry D’Souza and Jo Peterson.

Frank LaMere delivered an acceptance speech that had everyone reflecting on NFP’s storied past, thinking about our future, and near tears when he talked about his 21-year-old activist daughter, Lexie, who succumbed to cancer this past January.

The award ceremony can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvqTHPixoPlJNwoSdpr4uO2_fp0oqsN_S or by googling “Frank LaMere Gandhi 2014”.

Printed below are some excerpts from Frank’s comments.

I feel there is no coincidence in what we do. There’s a reason for NFP. There’s a reason you all are here today. There is a reason you came here. In doing the work I do, many years ago I came to that place one time. Maybe it was right before we were to be arrested one time. I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ I thought, ‘Isn’t there a better way?’ I think the Creator says to me, ‘I want you to go over to do some things, if you’ve got the nerve. If you don’t, that’s okay. There’s other things we have in store for you—to let you work to live your life comfortably—if if you don’t have the nerve.’

Nebraskans for Peace has shown me for over 20 years that they continue to have the nerve. I’m encouraged by that. I rarely listen to anybody in my life. Every day many, many people call and say, ‘We need this, we need this, this is how we need to do it.’ There are too many issues and not enough time. But when Nebraskans for Peace calls and says we need to do this, I say, “Well, we better do that.” I’m pleased, and I want Mark and all Nebraskans for Peace to know that I don’t always jump. But when you call, we always jump, because I know what you do is very important.

I accept this award for NFP, mindful that there are many issues, there are many battles, many efforts that continue today. NFP right now is synonymous with the ongoing issues concerning the Keystone XL pipeline. They are champions on climate change. They continue to work on peace issues. Middle Eastern peace issues. Issues of bullying. They are always on the front line.

NFP over the years has set the agenda for Nebraska on those issues that our elected leaders are afraid to tackle. They make it okay to talk about these things. It takes an organization like that to have the nerve, to have the resolve to say we should do something about these issues.

In that regard, I will remind the NFP that even here, on the UNO campus, that it was the Omahas, Winnebagos, Poncas, Pawnees, the Lakotas who first consecrated this ground on which we live and grow—who first asked for bountiful harvest and protection from the elements. In exchange for that, they told the Creator of all things that we would be good stewards of the land, that we would take care of what was given to us. Covenants have been made and must be respected. In your fight with the pipeline and climate change, always remember that covenants must be respected and that the promises that have been made, we must keep.

It was 90 days ago today that I lost my daughter. I would be remiss to not thank many Nebraskans for Peace who offered words of prayer, words of encouragement and words to live by. She was to be a senior at Creighton University. She had many dreams, many things she wanted to do. In many respects she was like-minded to NFP and myself. People have said those things will be undone and unfulfilled. I say those things will not be unfulfilled. Those things that need to be done, those things that she wished to do, will not be unfulfilled—I will do them. Nebraskans for Peace will continue, you will do them. That is how I believe.

This is a Gandhi symposium. And I thought about that a bit and something that is basic in all of our cultures, and important in my family. When Lexie was graduating from high school, someone asked what I want her to be—as if I had any control over that! The first thing I said was that I want her to be good to people. That is the first thing I remember saying to her, “You be good to him”; “You be good to her.” We were all taught by our parents to be good to people. That is what we were all taught, but then we live and we forget it. Lexie, in her life, learned that lesson that we at NFP try to impart every day in the work that we do.

I accept this Gandhi Award today with the very simple message I was reminded of last night and I remind us of today: you’ve got to be good to one another. You’ve got to be good to one another.

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