By World BEYOND War, March 20, 2022
World BEYOND War is saying farewell and thank you to our wonderful Board President of the past seven years Leah Bolger, and excitedly welcoming as our new Board President a long-time member of our Advisory Board Kathy Kelly.
Kathy Kelly is based in the United States, but is often elsewhere. Kathy’s efforts to end wars have led her to living in war zones and prisons over the past 35 years. In 2009 and 2010, Kathy was part of two Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegations which visited Pakistan to learn more about the consequences of U.S. drone attacks. From 2010 – 2019, the group organized dozens of delegations to visit Afghanistan, where they continued learning about casualties of U.S. drone attacks. Voices also helped organize protests at U.S. military bases operating weaponized drone attacks. She is now a co-coordinator of the Ban Killer Drones campaign.
“About forty years ago,” Kathy says, “a kindly journalist, Robert McClory, decided to write a lengthy article about my emerging efforts to become a pacifist. I had become a war tax refuser, served a year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites, and had recently returned from spending six months in Iraq, during and after the 1991 ‘Operation Desert Storm.’ Bob McClory’s articulate way with words gave me a summary of what he believed were my major motivations, and a mantra of sorts for my nascent activism: In his words: ‘So you believe the poorest of people should always be our number one priority, that nonviolence really can change the world, and you shouldn’t let inconvenience prevent you from acting in accord with your deepest beliefs.’
“I’ve felt profoundly grateful to ‘hang my hat’ with a beloved community of kindred spirits over the years, but, truthfully, I’d never expected to see a global network of committed activists thoroughly embrace the vision of a World Beyond War. What a joy, then, to watch the emergence of WBW. I’m grateful, intensely grateful, for this community’s energetic readiness to abolish war. From the earliest conversations when David Swanson, David Hartsough, Leah Bolger, Alice Slater and others began shaping the campaign’s vision and foundations, I’ve watched a flowering of commitment to diversity. The practical means of educating people grow organically, and the fact of not having an office in one particular spot on the globe is a wonderful testament to global solidarity. Dag Hammerskjold’s words come to mind: ‘For all that has been, thank you. For all that will be, Yes.'”
Leah Bolger was Board President of World BEYOND War from 2014 until March 2022. She is based in Oregon and California in the United States and in Ecuador. Leah retired in 2000 from the U.S. Navy at the rank of Commander after twenty years of active duty service. Her career included duty stations in Iceland, Bermuda, Japan and Tunisia and in 1997, was chosen to be the Navy Military Fellow at the MIT Security Studies program. Leah received an MA in National Security and Strategic Affairs from the Naval War College in 1994. After retirement, she became very active in Veterans For Peace, including election as the first woman national president in 2012. Later that year, she was part of a 20-person delegation to Pakistan to meet with the victims of U.S. drones strikes. She is the creator and coordinator of the “Drones Quilt Project,” a traveling exhibit which serves to educate the public, and recognize the victims of U.S. combat drones. In 2013 she was selected to present the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Peace Lecture at Oregon State University.
“Some of you may have heard that my husband Bart and I are moving to Ecuador this summer,” says Leah. “We are very excited about this new chapter for us, but it means that we will both be leaving the antiwar activist work that has been central to our lives for the past 16+ years. I am stepping down as the president of the WBW Board of Directors, and am thrilled to turn the reins over to Kathy Kelly, a woman for whom I could not have more respect. I cannot imagine a better person for this position.
“My involvement with WBW began when David Swanson called me to ask if I would be interested in exploring the possibility of creating a movement that would address dismantling the institution of war. Now, more than 8 years later, I can say that being a part of this incredible organization from the beginning has been the most gratifying period of my life. I am so proud of all that WBW has accomplished since the initial conversation between David Swanson and David Hartsough about their concept, to what it is today. From the beginning, a primary focus for us was to create something that was truly international, because we know that it is going to take a global effort if we are ever to eradicate war. To date, people in 192 countries have signed the WBW Declaration of Peace, and 30 of the 53 members of our staff, Board of Directors, and Advisory Board are from countries other than the U.S.
“I don’t have enough space to list all of our accomplishments; instead I will use this space to thank the incredible people that I work with every day. The 7 members of the WBW staff are the definition of a ‘Dream Team.’ I couldn’t ask for a more professional, dedicated, talented group of people: Greta Zarro, Organizing Director, Phill Gittins, Education Director, Alex McAdams, Development Director, Marc Eliot Stein, Technology Director, Rachel Small, Canada Organizer, Alessandra Granelli, Social Media Manager, and of course, David Swanson, co-founder and Executive Director, and without whom there would be no WBW. I can’t say that I will miss the weekly staff meetings, but I will definitely miss the feeling of being a part of a group working together for a noble goal. Though that goal is daunting, I feel confident that WBW is on the right track, and that it will continue to grow and make progress towards its realization. I am so grateful to have been a part of something so special.
“In peace, love, and solidarity,