Boca Peace Corner Participants Cultivate Harmony

MoveOn Iraq War and Recession Report Release – Boca Raton, Florida

© copyright 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight,

But they, while their companions slept,

Toiled ever upward through the night.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Peace comes upon us without much fanfare.  Most await an announcement or seek a moment of resolve.  However, the message never comes.  In this country, in our local communities, and perchance planet wide, a small number of people acknowledge goodwill is not created in an instant.  It grows.  The transition from warfare to common welfare is invisible.  Tranquility enters; and no one stands triumphantly.  Buglers do not blow their horns.  Twenty-one guns do not salute.  Serenity is a state of being.  This is true for individuals and for the world as a whole.  Harmony, once achieved will be but a hush.   Peace grows as a tree does, from the roots up.

Those who stand at the Boca Peace Corner are among those who understand this.  They experience an evolution every Saturday between noon and one.  That is the time these devoted “gardeners” dedicate to growing an end to war.

The persons who espouse peace at the crossroads of Saint Andrews Boulevard and Glades Road are aware that the process is slow; the progression slower.  They appreciate a shift may not be seen, but it is nevertheless palpable.  Stories from grassroots activists in the Boca Raton area affirm calmness quietly creeps into existence.

The weekly South Florida vigil began with a Mom, or perhaps two.  The shared stories of Cindy Sheehan and Susan Caruso offer insight into how unity evolves.  Each of these mothers can attest to the fact, an intangible such as love [or harmony with our fellow humans] is felt.  The bond between a parent and a child, Casey and Cindy or Susan and her sons, is as imperceptible as growth.

For local Mom, Susan Caruso, in August 2005 she decided to take an active stand against the war in Iraq.  With the stroke of her hand and the click of a mouse, Ms Caruso planted the seed that gave birth to the Boca Peace Corner.  The afternoon was no different than most others.  Susan had read and heard of Cindy Sheehan and the soldier’s Mom’s cries.  Sheehan, an average American mother, was much like Susan.  Each had sons.  Ms Caruso has two male children.  At the time, they were ages 20 and 24.  Cindy Sheehan had a grown child named Casey.  He was 24 years old when he departed from this Earth.  Casey Sheehan passed two weeks after he arrived in Iraq.  The young Army specialist was killed in battle in 2004.

By 2005, Ms Sheehan was frustrated.  Cindy Sheehan read the belatedly released Intelligence reports.  She learned that perhaps, her son did not need to die.  The fallen enlistee’s parent felt a need to speak to the man she believed most responsible for her loss.  Yet, George W. Bush, the Commander-In-Chief, was not willing to meet with this mournful Mom.  Apparently, it mattered not that Casey Sheehan sacrificed his life for his country, for the homeland the Chief Officer also inhabits.  George W. Bush was busy.

After many attempts to arrange a meeting, Casey’s Mom decided she would campout at the President’s ranch in Crawford Texas and wait for him to come to her, or perhaps invite her in.  Mister Bush did neither.

It seemed the nation’s most Senior Officer could not be bothered with niceties while on holiday.  As news of such a circumstance spread throughout the country, Americans began to question the President and his priorities. did more than inquire; they requested that common people from every region stand in support of a Casey’s Mom.  

Susan Caruso decided she must do so.  The empathy she felt for Cindy Sheehan was great.  The antipathy for the war may not have been greater; nevertheless, it was intense.  Susan Caruso signed up to sponsor a peace vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Saint Andrews Boulevard.

Ms Caruso expected perhaps thirty people would register for the event.  Instead, some two hundred and fifty individuals appeared for the action.  Cindy Sheehan may have been the invisible hand that nurtured what had been dormant within Susan.

The thoughtful actions of one Mom advanced the desire for peace in another.  The enthusiasm of a local parent provoked others.  Apparently, in Boca Raton, Florida scores of people felt it was time to speak out against the Iraq War.  Perchance, Susan Caruso’s actions were as fertilizer.  Her sponsorship helped to grow what would later be known as the Boca Peace Corner.

The vigil was scheduled to begin at dusk on August 13, 2005.  South Florida residents filled a large field outside the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building and then, in a desire to be seen by more, they moved to the corner of Saint Andrews Boulevard and Glades Road.

The Liberto family was there that first night.  After, Scott Liberto and his spouse Jill made more than dozen signs.  They packed these into a bag and brought the collection with them each week.  The thought was, if others walked by and wanted to join the political action, they too would have a banner to hold.  The energy and enthusiasm grew as did a movement towards peace.

The foundation for an ever-expansive evolution began on an August evening in 2005, and continues every Saturday in this little local enclave.  

The growth is virtually unseen to those who quickly travel down the street.   However, the grassroots expansion is evident to the early organizers and frequent participants.  In less than three years, more than four hundred electronic mail addresses were collected from fervent persons who, at one time or another, participated in a vigil at the Boca Peace Corner.

Mike Budd and his wife Suzanne, each of whom was present on the first night, continue to attend.  The two occupy the pavement across the street from the larger cluster.  When asked why the couple does not join the crowd, Professor Budd offered, “We are more visible” Mike spoke of how from their place on the opposite corner, they are better able to make eye contact with the people who pass.  Doctor Budd, a Vietnam veteran often adorned in attire that identifies his past combat experience, states that when he and his wife engage the drivers, the interaction is more persuasive.  The pair does not converse with each other while at the intersection.  They focus on the individuals who pass them by in automobiles or on foot.

Mike Budd notes as many of those who have stood on the Boca Peace Corner frequently do, “There has been a change in the responses over time.”  The prospect for peace although not discernible from a distance, is obvious to those who nurture the growth.

Today demonstrators observe people are more tolerant.  Those very few who voice a disagreement with the dissenters wish to know if the individuals who stand in vigil truly support the troops.  Susan Caruso, the first to propose the peace action in Boca Raton definitely does.  Shortly after she gave birth to the local movement her youngest son, Steven enlisted in the Army.  Steven thought it important that he make a sacrifice as other, often less fortunate Americans, do.

For well over a year, Debra Leisten has stood in homage to the soldier she loves.  “My nephew is in the Air Force.  Presently he’s on his 2nd tour in the Middle East.  After he returned from his first tour, he was very disillusioned with the purpose of our military role in Iraq.”  However, Ms Leisten articulates, her nephew, being in the Armed Forces feels he is not “able to voice [his] dissent to the War.”  

Leisten offers, “I wanted to honor our military and provide my nephew with a voice so I went to the Vigil.”  She regretted that she had not known of the enduring event earlier.  Nonetheless, once she discovered the Peace Corner she chose to actively participate each week.

Ms Leisten expressed as all those at the Peace Corner might, “I am so thankful for the opportunity to meet with like-minded people and exercise my constitutional right to free-speech and peaceable assembly.”  Those who attend the Saturday vigils are as Debra expounds, grateful to grow peace.  

Jerry Rabinowitz and Nancy Pawlowski, regular participants at the Peace Corner, realize the power people have when they work in unison to cultivate a movement.  The two were deeply touched by the same seed that spurred Susan Caruso on.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, in 2004, almost a year before the Boca Peace Corner became a reality; the couple was encouraged by their experience at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas.  

Nevertheless, Nancy had, and at times still has reservations that she, or people in any protest, can make a difference.  It is hard to imagine that a few can fertilize true change.  As Nancy reflects on the vigils she states, “I do not think we are personally stopping the war.”

Nancy acknowledges what a little bit of encouragement and information can produce.  Ms Pawlowski “was never politically active until two or three years ago.”  She was inspired to act when she realized how extreme man’s inhumanity to his fellow man might be.  Ms Pawlowski explains, the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison “really struck me.”  The woman who would not have identified herself as an activist prior to the 2004 revelations apologetically admits, “I did not really do anything about it [my distress].”  More accurately, Nancy did not conspicuously act on her angst.  However, she did as people always do before they move; she ruminated.

As Ms Pawlowski pondered, just as she was mulling over the mayhem done in her name, she received a message from the organization that harvests the seeds of peace,  Like Susan Caruso and Debra Leisten, Nancy hesitantly decided she must at least try to make a difference.  Upon reflection, Nancy realized, when she took part in a peaceful demonstration all those years ago, she felt her soul was nourished.

Today, she smiles, and states, much to her surprise, “The people at the Corner affect me.  They keep me coming back.”  Now, when she stands street side she is aware of the fact, there are “some really good people” in this world.  She believes, perchance it is possible to grow peace.

The tale of the Boca Peace Corner is as the lovely legendry allegory of the Chinese Bamboo Tree.  The Chinese Bamboo Tree when planted, watered, and nurtured for an entire growing season does not appear to grow as much as an inch.  During the second year of the seedling’s life, the gardener may again carefully water, fertilize, and nurture what he hopes will become a beautiful bamboo tree.  Yet, the cane plant still does not sprout.  

For four long years, the sun rises, and sets.  The moon enters and exits its standard phases.  The gardener and his family have nothing tangible to show for all of their labor.  Love does not help the sapling along.  No matter the nourishment bestowed upon the kernel meant to give birth to a Chinese bamboo tree, the pip appears dormant.  The gardener fears the seed may have died.  Yet, his hope does not waiver.  He continues to attend to the possible plant.

Then, in the fifth year a miracle occurs.  The Chinese Bamboo Tree seed finally sprouts and the perennial woody plant grows up to eighty feet in just one growing season, or so it would seem.  The roots, just as grassroots efforts in South Florida were reaching out all along.  A firm foundation was born out of sight.

One of the Boca Peace Corner participants understands this to her core.  Betsy L. Angert does as the Budd’s do.  When at the vigil she works to make eye contact with those who pass her.  For more than a year, each Saturday, a well-groomed gentleman, perhaps, in his thirties drives by.  His hair is a little long.  His attire and automobile are as one might think, typical of Progressive.  Betsy believes, from appearances, this man might show his support.  However, after more than a year she accepted he may never acknowledge her presence.  

This quiet man had not extended his digits in a sign of peace.  Nor had he honked his horn.  He rarely, if ever even offered a smile.  Then, three weeks ago, he waved in delight as he turned the corner and once again saw Betsy.  Perchance, that was a sign; if those at the Boca Peace Corner cultivate global harmony, a tranquility tree will grow.

Vigils For Cindy. Viewing the Volumes of Support, Hearing the Voices ©

35101475_e22345749bThis post will not be filled with my own words; it will be the sharing of thoughts, those of others.  Last evening, on August 17, 2005, organized a nation-wide vigil.  The event was meant to honor Cindy and Casey Sheehan.  People were acknowledging the lives of each, a mother and her fallen son. She is grieving and he is physically gone from this Earth.  He lost his life fighting for his country; he was an American soldier.

People attending the vigils were standing in support of the living, and eulogizing the physical passing of those slain in a questionable war.  Many persons gathered.  They mourned the loss of limbs, the loss of sight, and the physical, emotional, mental, and  spiritual toll war can take.

Crowds came to these ceremonies and each person was doing as Cindy does. They were protesting the Iraq war and American war policies.  People came in droves requesting an end to the killing; they want an exit strategy, now!  They want to be heard by the President of the United States.  Whether King George II chooses to hear their plea, well, that is another story.  His choice is his own; nonetheless, many throughout the nation chose to speak.

Words were few, visuals were plenty.  I offer these in the form of a slide show.  Please journey within.  View the Cindy Coalition in peaceful action.

Below, I am also offering some of the many thoughts and feelings of those that participated. If you would like to read more of these, please travel to

While attending this observance people were asked, “What was the best moment” for you.  They reflected and expressed what they thought the most meaningful experience of their evening.

Please share your own thoughts, feelings, and experience.  I invite you to comment so that others might understand you, why you think as you do, practice as you believe is best, and are engaging as you are.

“Our candlelight vigil at Camp Casey was beautiful. There were hundreds of people here and we are hearing that hundreds of people were involved in vigils around the country. We at Camp Casey are so amazed and gratified that there were almost 1700 vigils around the country.” -Cindy Sheehan, Crawford, Texas

“Melanie House (whose husband was killed in Iraq) organized our vigil.  She spoke briefly about her grief and about her hope that other wives and families will be spared the disaster that has come to her.  She is very brave to be speaking out and I am very moved by her courage.” – Delia R., Simi Valley, California

“At the end of the period of silence our host read an editorial from this Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer by Celeste and Dante Zapata about the loss of their son and brother, Sherwood Baker. It was a moving moment and certainly encapsulated the essence of our ??not about politics, all about peace’ theme.” – Lisa L., Harleysville, Pennsylvania

“The most moving moment was when one of the military men in attendance read the names of the Michigan military deaths and included personal comments about each of the soldiers mentioned.” – Ann L., Howell, Michigan

“I met a woman with photos of family members serving in the military pinned to her shirt.  ??This is my brother and his son, both serving in this picture.  The other is my sister’s son, who’s going back for a third time to Iraq.'” – Northfield People for Peace and Goodwill, Northfield, Minnesota

“Well, more and more people kept showing up, and that was the best part.  To know that you are not alone, and that there are others in your own community who are so supportive of Cindy Sheehan, and finding a new way.” – Kate M., Scappoose, Oregon

“The best moment was probably the half hour after the vigil ended with the tolling of the old church bell in the steeple. A few people left, but most stayed, talking in small groups, not wanting to give up the feelings of friendship, common purpose and hope they found there.” – – Caroline A., Kent, Ohio

“At the conclusion of the vigil, the coordinator introduced herself and asked for a minute of silence to remember all of our fallen soldiers. It was a dignified, respectful gathering.” – Elizabeth S., Westfield, New Jersey

“Two or three Vietnam veterans happened upon our vigil and join in with love, tears and peace in their hearts. They were very grateful.  A mom whose son is leaving in 5 weeks for Iraq was there and was comforted by all the love and connections. A young woman put a photo of here brother in Iraq on our small altar.” – Katherine S., Lake Worth, Florida

“Being a new resident of a conservative Florida city I was concerned that the turnout might be miniscule; tears came to my eyes when I arrived and saw a significant number of participants with candles and signs lining the street!” – Leah F., Lakeland, Florida