After wearing through four pairs of shoes and speaking to hundreds of people in 12 states about war solutions, Wesleyan student Ashley Casale ’10 returned briefly to campus after a 3,000-mile cross-country trek to promote world peace.
Casale walked from San Francisco, Calif. to Washington D.C. this summer to raise peace awareness and discuss ways to take action nonviolently. Her March for Peace concluded Sept. 10 in front of the White House.
“Overall, this was a great, eye-opening experience,” Casale said to peers, deans and President Michael Roth during campus visit Sept. 21. “This walk was about peace, and (we learned that) peace isn’t political.”
Casale crossed the country with her walking partner Michael Israel, a recent high school graduate from California. Together, they trekked 25 miles a day, carrying a wide “March 4 Peace SF to DC” banner or donning pro-peace attire. They made several stops along the route to chat with area residents about their cause.
Their messages included supporting nonviolent resistance to war efforts, ceasing crimes against humanity, ending nuclear weapon holding and proliferation, and promoting sustainability and global citizenship. They particularly marched for peace in Iraq, and to raise awareness of the genocide, rape, and torture in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa.
Casale and Israel began the walk on May 21, carrying only three outfits, two journals, a first aid kit, water bottle, sunscreen, sleeping bag and a small tent apiece. They relied on acquaintances they met along the way to donate food, additional clothing, shelter and shoes. They also asked for monetary donations via their Web site, http://marchforpeace.com. Casale said hundreds of peace-supporters joined their march, some for hours, others for days.
Together, they crossed Americas deserts, prairies and mountainous regions, in the sun, rain storms and whipping winds, all in an attempt to make a visible impact. Casale and Israel made several media appearances, from radio and television interviews to being featured on the front page of the Chicago Tribune.
“We never wanted to draw attention to ourselves, just our cause,” Casale says.
Roth, who was living in California during the time of their departure, says he remembered seeing Casale on the 10 p.m. news.
“When I saw that there was a student from Wesleyan walking across the country for peace, I thought that was a very admirable thing,” Roth said during a recent meeting with Casale and Israel. “It’s wonderful you were able to bring attention to peace activism, and that you were so determined to get your message out there.”
The walkers recorded their experiences along the way in a journal, but the memories are still very fresh in their minds. They recall meeting a woman in Griswold, Iowa who lost her fiancé at the time to the Vietnam War, and a military mom in Peoria, Ill. whose son joined the Army and was deported to Iraq.
“It was always emotional for us to talk to military moms, because most of them have sons in Iraq who are our same age,” Casale said. “She said she told her son in Iraq about us, and he was awed that we had walked so far to end this war.”
Casale and Israel plan to write a book together this year based on their March for Peace. Class deans Marina Melendez and Michael Whaley invited them to speak at a deans colloquium, and Roth said he will encourage other students to express their views and be proactive.
Casale and Israel made dozens of stops in each state they passed through. Their route included California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and finally Washington D.C. Their journey is documented in an online photo gallery at http://www.marchforpeace.info/reportbacks.html.
Casale, an undeclared environmental studies and music major, will resume her studies at Wesleyan in Spring 2008.