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peace literacy: an origin story

peace literacy is informed

by 3 main questions:

  1. What if people were as well-trained in waging peace as soldiers are in waging war?

  2. What if people were trained to address the root causes of problems rather than the symptoms?

  3. What if we taught peace as a skill set, as a life-saving literacy, with as much rigor as we teach literacy in reading and writing?

These questions and their answers arose during Paul K. Chappell's journey from war to peace and from rage to realistic hope.

In Chappell's own words:

I come from an unusual background to be working for peace. I graduated from West Point in 2002, I was deployed to Iraq, and I left the army as a captain.


But my initial interest in peace did not result from my experiences in war, but from growing up in a violent household. My father fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he had a lot of war trauma, which he brought home with him.


He served in the army for 30 years, retiring as a Command Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank.

In this photo, you can see my father when he served in the Korean War.

My father (pictured front row, left) was Black and suffered from childhood trauma and racial trauma. Born in 1925, he grew up under segregation in Virginia, during the Great Depression.

My mother is Korean and also suffered from war trauma. She and her parents (pictured here) lived in Japan during World War II, and in Korea during the Korean War.

Born in 1980, my life has been forged by childhood trauma, war trauma, and racial trauma – three forms of trauma that affect countless people around the world.


Growing up as an only child, with a Black father and a Korean mother, in a violent home in Alabama, I experienced strong feelings of alienation, especially racial alienation. Although I am often seen as Asian, my father and mother raised me to view the world from the perspective of a Black man living before the civil rights movement.

The extreme rage and mistrust that resulted from my childhood trauma and alienation caused me to develop a mass shooter personality in high school. Every day, I would fantasize about shooting the kids in my classes.

In this yearbook photo from my freshman year, you can see that I am not doing well. You can see my trauma, rage, mistrust, and alienation.

I am not alone. Countless people walk the terrain of trauma, rage, mistrust, and alienation. We can see the effects all around us, in our communities, the nation, and the globe.

What led me to create Peace Literacy was the realization that very little in our current education system helps people address their trauma, rage, mistrust, and alienation.

When I was at West Point, I realized that soldiers receive excellent training in waging war, but most people receive no training in waging peace.

To bridge these gaps, I’ve gathered together a dedicated team of educators to scale up Peace Literacy through teacher training, curriculum design, and new technology.
James Lawson

C.T. Vivian

Bernard Lafayette

Our Peace Literacy training and curriculum build on West Point’s world-class leadership training and the disciplined vision of the Civil Rights leaders and close colleagues of Dr. King with whom I studied after I left the military (pictured above).


Photo credits, left-right: S. Hammond, D. Goldman, and  H. Dyckoff.

Peace Literacy is Survival Literacy

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Peace Literacy empowers us to protect the survival of our relationships, families, communities, nations, and the world by equipping us with the skills needed to:
  • Build strong communities

  • Confront root causes of problems

  • Navigate struggle and uncertainty

  • Use technology with discernment

  • Create peace that is resilient and sustainable

  • Thrive as human beings



The origin story for the creation of a Peace Literate world is still being written, and you can be a valued part of this story.

You can increase realistic hope in your life and in the lives of others by joining us in the mission to create a Peace Literate world.

Our world needs Peace Literacy, now more than ever.

help sustain our work

The Peace Literacy Institute designs curricular materials that anyone can download and use for free to support Peace Literacy in their schools and communities. We also provide education rates for our workshops so teachers can make the most effective use of the curriculum.

Donations make it possible for us to provide this public service.

Your contribution will sustain our work to spread Peace Literacy during a time when humanity needs it the most.

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