By Staff Reports

Gay man is state coordinator for Texas Department of Peace Campaign, conference organizer

"Creating a Politics of Hope & Possibility," the 2008 South Central Regional Conference for a U.S. Department of Peace, will be held Friday through Sunday, April 25-27, at the Hughes Trigg Student Center on the Southern Methodist University campus, 3140 Dyer Street in Dallas.

The conference is presented by Texas Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace.

The event will be a seven-state regional conference promoting the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace and Non-Violence and focusing on growing public support for a Cabinet-level department in the federal government, as proposed in House Bill 808 currently before Congress .

The U.S. Department of Peace would research, develop and implement interventions to conflict before it erupts into physical violence, both internationally and in the U.S.

But, said Texas DOP Campaign’s openly gay state coordinator J. Kendal Johnson, "this is not a worn-out, ‘flower-power’ notion of peace, all dressed up and headed to Washington."

Johnson said, "The bill before the U.S. House of Representatives … will expand our current options and provide practical, proactive solutions to the problems of domestic and international conflict, including hate crimes against LGBT people. But it will only pass into law under one condition: that a wave of ordinary citizens rises up and makes themselves heard in the halls of Congress."

The conference opens Friday night with a debate between academics over the need for a Department of Peace, co-sponsored by Texas DOP Campaign and the Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.

The moderator for the debate will be Dan Schill, assistant professor in Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at the Meadows School of the Arts.

Debate judges will be Kenneth D. Upton, senior staff attorney in the Southern Central Regional Office of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; David Mason, the Johnie Christian Family Peace professor in the department of political science at the University of North Texas; and Brandon Friedman, a veteran infantry officer awarded two Bronze Stars for his service in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq and author of "The War I Always Wanted."

The team arguing in favor of a Department of Peace will include David Frank, professor of rhetoric and associate director of the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, and Rob Atkinson, Student Peace Alliance national communications coordinator and a student at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

Those arguing against establishing such an office will be Seyom Brown, the John Goodwin Tower distinguished chair in International Politics and National Security at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and a University of North Texas debate team member.

The debate and a social mixer with hors d’oeuvres and music by Kerri Arista begin at 7 p.m. in the ballroom at the Hughes Trigg Student Center, and admission is $30.

On Saturday night, Peace Alliance founder, author and lecturer Marianne Williamson will speak on "The Politics of Possibility" and answer questions from the audience about The U.S. Department of Peace legislation, its prospects, and strategies for supporting its passage.

Williams speaks at 7 p.m. Saturday, also in the Hughes Trigg Ballroom, with music by The Dreamsicles. Admission is $40.

Workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and workshops will include "Programs That Work" with Officer William Petty, victim services manager with the Austin Police Department, Jackie Bonner, anti-gang violence instructor with the TFK Foundation, and Karen Blessen, founder of Today Marks the Beginning; a presentation by national leaders with The Peace Alliance will talk about what House Bill 808 would and would not do, the outlook for a companion bill in the Senate and building grassroots support for the initiative; and a session on nonviolent communication exploring techniques in an emerging technique that bypasses compromise and mediation, based on the work and writings of Marshall Rosenberg and facilitated by certified NVC leadership trainer Judith Stuart-Coale.

Sunday’s conference sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will focus on local community action and fundraising.

The cost to attend the Friday night debate, Williamson’s presentation and the Saturday and Sunday workshops is $95. Registration for the conference is not required to attend the debate or Williamson’s presentation, although there is an admission fee.

To register for the conference, go online to For more information, call 214-660-1468 or e-mail

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 25, 2008.

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