Peace activist Colman McCarthy of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington visited Cate School on Friday while in Santa Barbara to be honored by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

A Washington Post columnist for 28 years, McCarthy founded the Center for Teaching Peace, a Washington nonprofit organization that helps schools begin or expand academic programs in peace studies. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and teaches classes at three Washington-area high schools.

“We are graduating students as peace illiterates who have only heard the side of violence,” McCarthy lamented. “Unless we teach our children peace, someone will teach them violence.”

At one point in his talk he held up a $100 bill and challenged the audience.

“I’ll give this to anybody who can identify these next six people — Who were Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and Paul Revere?”

Hands flew up and students easily answered his challenge. But when he continued, “Who was Jeanette Rankin (The first woman member of Congress, who voted against World Wars I and II, and said, “You can no more win a war than win an earthquake.”]? Who was Ida B. Wells (A black woman famous for her anti-lynching campaign during late 19th and early 20th centuries)? And who was Barbara Lee (The only lawmaker to vote against war in Afghanistan after 9/11)?”  Only one hand was raised — a student who could identify Rankin, who was a fellow Montanan.

“The last three are women peacemakers. The first three are all male peacebreakers,” McCarthy said. “You know the militarists, but not the peacemakers.”

Although McCarthy makes a similar challenge at every talk he gives to students, he has never lost his $100 bill.

Students and faculty were moved by his presentation and crowded the stage afterward to ask him questions and continue the conversation. Many purchased books published by his center, in the hopes of bringing a peace curriculum to Cate.

Don Orth is Cate School‘s communications director.