Peacemaker of the Year: Vincent Kavaloski (January 15, 1946- September 10, 2020)

The Board of WNPJS has named Vincent C. Kavaloski as its Peacemaker of the Year. Vince changed our lives and continues to change our lives and many others toward possibilities for peace. His contributions to peace went far beyond his fostering peace and justice through WNPJS. His entire career as a teacher, sought-after speaker and writer was interwoven with his courageous grassroots accompaniment of communities working for peace.  

After his PhD from the University of Chicago, Vince taught at Penn State University, then to Shimer College, and later to UW Richland Center, UW Platteville, and to the Wisconsin Humanities Council.  He spent the last 25 years of his teaching career at Edgewood College in Madison. His award-winning courses included such topics as the History and Philosophy of Nonviolence, Living the Good Life, the United Nations, and the Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King.

He was deeply committed to his students and supported their interests in human rights and justice through the Amnesty International Club and the UN Club. For more than 20 years, Vince took hundreds of high school and college students to the U.N. in New York City to experience what he called “the most multi-cultural place on earth.” He was also one of the founders and a long-time member of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, a state-wide higher education consortium dedicated to peace education and peace activism and a board member of the American Friends Service Committee.

Vincent’s deep commitment to peace making took him on many adventures including a peace delegation to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There he smuggled out a record of the unjust trial of the imprisoned president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, ultimately resulting in his freedom and relocation to Israel.

For several summers in the mid-1980s, Vince, his wife Jane H Kavaloski and their children taught for UNESCO in Poland where they witnessed the nonviolent resistance of the Poles living under Martial Law and the secretly thriving Solidarity Movement. Later, with his wife Jane, he also taught and studied nonviolence in Denmark and the former Czechoslovakia.

In the early 1990s, Vince and Jane led an interfaith delegation to the Middle East to meet with groups committed to nonviolence reconciliation. Also concerned about the environmental crisis, Vincent and Jane led study tours to Central America to study the interdependence of the coral reefs and rainforests, and their importance in planetary survival. In 2013 the Dane County Chapter of the United Nations honored Vincent with their Global Citizen Award. 

Vincent also was involved in many peace activities in rural Southwest Wisconsin.  35 years ago Jane and Vincent organized “Grassroots Citizens for Peace” and that became a platform for organizing peace-oriented workshops, study series, book groups and vigils. It became an affiliate of WNPJS.

Annually Vincent was a speaker at its “Lanterns for Peace” event held in commemoration of the bombings of the Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At least one Lanterns for Peace event (2012) was featured in our WNPJS newsletter. See “The Possibilities for Peace” Annual Lanterns for Peace Event – Dodgeville See http://wnpj.org/node/7058.

Always a lover of dialogue, Vincent initiated a Socratic Café and co-facilitated “Understanding One Another,” a politically diverse group who convened for respectful listening. 

Jane and Vince are deeply appreciated as co – directors of the Ecumenical Partnership for Peace and Justice for the Wisconsin Council of Churches. 

Jane and Vince were active with the The Interfaith Peace Working Group (IPWG), made up of members of various faith communities and communities of conscience who believe in the sanctity of life and are committed to the struggle for peace, justice, and the care of creation.  IPWG's mission is to increase the understanding of nonviolence in faith communities and communities of conscience as an important part of these communities’ visions and as an effective force in the struggle for peace, justice, and the care of creation. And to advocate for significant reductions in U.S. military spending and the use of all savings achieved to address urgent human and environmental needs.

With the two already mentioned, Jane and Vince led in bringing the "Southwest Wisconsin Grassroots Citizens for Peace and Justice" and Rock Ridge Community to become affiliates of WNPJS.

Vincent, was always generous with his time to speak of Dr. King (with whom he fittingly shared his birthday). Whether in Spring Green library, Dodgeville Kiwanis, or in Madison venues, Vince was transformational for our understanding and action. His "Prophet, Philosopher, Tragic Hero" description of Dr. King https://africasong.org/mlk-2017-january-16-2017/ was printed in the 2017  program for "Wisconsin's Tribute and Ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."  We especially appreciate how he brought Martin and Malcolm together

We are happy to find an archive of all of Vince’s "Parables and Ponderings" in the “Voice of the River Valley” found at https://www.voiceoftherivervalley.com/category/columns/parables-and-ponderings/  His words and actions will live on with us and continue to change our lives toward peace and justice. He is truly Peacemaker of the year.

 

A recent poem written by Vince, reprinted from Parables & Ponderings, Voice of the River Valley

 

The Tragedy and the Paradox of Greek Civilization

They are old Dead White Males,
Embarrassing in their political incorrectness.
They built their greatness on slavery,
They were patriarchal and sexist to the core,
They idealized the warrior and warred 
Incessantly. They could be cruel and often
Despised mercy as weakness.
And yet — and yet
We are still fascinated by the 
Shattered fragments of their tiny
Long-ago world. Why?

Perhaps we see reflected in them
As in an old cracked mirror, 
Our own subterranean psyches, 
Our own repressed Dionysian
Obsession with power and violence.

After all, for many of us, 
They are our cultural Ancestors 
And, however much we might
Try to escape or disown them,
We are imprinted with the
Mark of their madness — and genius.
In order to understand our
Own conflicted nature,
We must embrace them.
A return to the Greeks is a 
Return to our own roots.

But there is something else,
At the very dawn of civilization,
In a rocky and harsh corner of the world,
Amidst the violence and domination that
Flourished everywhere, human consciousness
Took flight on the gossamer wings of poetry
And philosophy, and for one brief, beautiful
Moment, warriors set down their
Weapons and began a quest for
Truth, Goodness and Beauty through
Drama, dialogue and debate.

They dreamed a Dream of Wisdom and
Virtue and Democracy
Soaring high in the sky of the mind,
Pushing back the limits of what human
Beings could be. They built temples to beauty
And poems to love, created philosophy that
Pursued self-knowledge and science
That probed the heavens and earth.  

And then the drums of war returned
And suddenly it was all over. They could not
Live the dream they dreamed so well.
This is their paradox and their tragedy.