03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Honoring Women for Peace

I want to tell a story about three women, a golden dove and the pursuit of peace.

First, some facts:

Two women who have changed the world for the better will be honored at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's 26th Annual Evening for Peace this weekend in Santa Barbara, California.

The Evening for Peace honors remarkable leaders who pursue peace with integrity, persistence and heart.

In past years, we have given our awards to Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Jody Williams as well as to other remarkable women, including Hafsat Abiola, Helen Caldicott, Anne Ehrlich, Mary Travers, Queen Noor of Jordan and Bianca Jagger.

This year's honorees are peace-builders who have provided the inspiration for the event's theme - Women for Peace.

Riane Eisler will receive the Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. As an author, social scientist and lawyer, she has been a pioneer in showing how women's rights (and therefore human rights) are the building blocks of world peace. Her international bestseller, The Chalice and the Blade, outlines the need for a cultural transformation, moving from the politics of dominance to the practice of partnership. She was named as one of the world 20 Great Peacemakers and serves as President of the Center for Partnership Studies and as a Councilor on the World Future Council.

Judith Mayotte will receive the Foundation's World Citizenship Award. A true humanitarian, she worked as a nun in the inner-cities of America helping people at the margins of society. After leaving her order, she became a television producer, winning an Emmy for her work on the Portrait of America series in 1986 and later served as a special advisor to the Clinton administration on refugee matters. She is featured as one of the Smithsonian Museum's 100 Everyday Freedom Heroes. She now teaches in South Africa as a visiting professor at the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre and The University of the Western Cape.

The third woman in my story is another distinguished peace leader characterized by commitment, courage and compassion. Her name is Frances Moore Lappé.

This week she sent a beautiful golden statuette of a dove to David Krieger, the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. She included a note and asked that the dove be included in the Evening for Peace. This is what the note said:

I am delighted and honored to pass this Golden Dove to David Krieger, and to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Thirty identical Golden Doves, created by German artist Richard Hillinger, are circling the planet to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. David, you are a hero to me for your tireless, focused, creative, determined work for peace.

Peace, living free of the fear of annihilation, is foundational to all other human rights. His Holiness, the XIVth Dalai Lama, once congratulated your foundation for "encouraging a climate of peace and harmony in the world," and for "being a consistent voice in ending the nuclear weapons threat to humanity and all life." I am proud to second His Holiness. May you and the Foundation continue to grow in strength and influence, enabling more and more of us to realize that it is within our power to end the nuclear threat.

David Krieger is delighted at the gift of the peace dove and with the theme of this year's Evening for Peace.

"Women are central to achieving and maintaining peace," he said. "We need more women to be leaders in the quest for peace."

I agree.

The key is Riane Eisler's concept of partnership. Peace is a team sport. It can only be achieved through cooperation and as a community. And such cooperation begins inside the individual.

There can't be peace in our society, or the world, if there is violence and
hatred in our hearts. If we accept the status quo of a violent world where only the powerful can prosper, then we have turned our future into a painful prison.

But once we imagine with our hearts, we are free to reach out and build peace with others, as Riane and Judith and Frances have done.

Connection leads to understanding. Understanding to compassion. And compassion to cooperation, partnership and peace.

Peace be with you all.