Day 40: Byron Sandford

On this last day of this year’s 40 Days with Peacemakers, we celebrate the person who has made this series and much of what continues at William Penn House possible.

Byron Sandford was born in Cleburne, Texas, October 16, 1946 to Thaddeus Sandford and Mildred “Sammie” Howes Sandford, a couple who began their married life together in Alaska, trapping and gold mining.  Byron attended the University of Texas at El Paso (Texas Western at the time) and was a student there when its all-black basketball team beat all-white Kentucky for the national championship, a milestone in college athletics. He went on to earn a Master’s degrees in psychology and political science. Though Byron grew up a Methodist and his first wife Franci was brought up Catholic, they were seekers who wanted a spiritual life that spoke to their heart and spirit and reflected their values.  In 1974 their exploration let them to El Paso Worship Group and their spiritual home with Quakers.

ByronByron became fully committed to Quaker testimonies and service–Friends Meeting of Austin: treasurer; South Central Yearly Meeting: nominating, yearly meeting program, and ministry committees;  Friends General Conference: clerk of finance and development committees, treasurer, and various ad hoc committees; Quakerland, an intentional community in west Texas: trustee and builder; Pendle Hill’s nominating committee and acting presiding clerk; Friends Meeting of Washington:  clerk of property and finance and stewardship committees; and Baltimore Yearly Meeting:  nominating committee and clerk of trustees.

When Byron met his wife Susan, he spoke eloquently about the role of his Quaker faith in his life. It has been a strong thread in their lives together from that meeting on.  During his tenure at the William Penn House as executive director, Byron has been a leader and a follower.  He recognized the significant gifts of his colleagues and celebrated and facilitated their leadings, making the significance of Quaker faith and service visible to the community. His gentle nurturing has left a lasting imprint on William Penn House and the broader community. Even the way he handled Parkinsons – never shying away the challenges, but looking forward with optimism and a spirit that all is well, not necessarily good, but well – have been an inspiration. And, in recognition of how it all got started, here it is as only Byron can put it: My kids grew up and left home, my wife grew up and left home, the dog died, and I got the hell out of Texas. 

This brings the series to a close for another year. If you have enjoyed this 40 Days with Peacemakers, we invite you to take a moment to make a contribution to William Penn House so that the spirit of Byron’s work and all that we do can continue. Donations can be made here. We will also be raising a glass to Byron on Sunday, April 17 from 3-7PM at Biegarten Haus, 1335 H St NE. Click here to see more and RSVP.


Day 37: Neil Snarr

Neil Snarr grew up in New York and Indiana in a conservative household. After a stint in the Army and obtaining advanced degrees in Theology and Sociology, Neil took a teNeil Snarraching job at Wilmington College. WC is a small Quaker liberal arts college in Southwest Ohio. Not long after arriving at WC, Neil began attending Quaker meeting and has been deeply involved with Friends ever since.

At WC he taught a variety of courses in Sociology and Global Issues. He also taught frequently in Wilmington’s prison program, which was a central aspect of WC’s social justice-oriented mission. In the 1960s, Neil began taking students to Central America and Mexico to learn Spanish and about the realities of the region. This was the beginning of his decades-long interest in taking students abroad and concern for native people throughout the world.

In the 1990s Neil began taking a handful of students to Spring Lobby Weekend, organized by FCNL in Washington, DC. At Spring Lobby Weekend, students learn about an issue of concern to Quakers, learn how to lobby, and then apply this knowledge on Capitol Hill. What began as a few students in a van has evolved into a charter bus loaded with 50-plus students, faculty, staff, and community members from Wilmington, Ohio.

In the academic realm, Neil has done research on post-disaster housing in Central America, edited a book on Nicaragua, and co-edited a book on global issues (now in its 6th edition). Additionally, he has served on various Quaker committees including Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO).

Upon retiring, Neil has remained active. At WC he raises money for student travel to Quaker-related issues and has researched the history of local desegregation efforts. Most recently, Neil received recognition for selling $10,000 worth of Palestinian fair trade olive oil. His support of Palestinian olive farmers fits well with Neil’s long-held mantra that “if you want to help disadvantaged people, you should buy their products.” Neil has also been instrumental in enabling WC students to join William Penn Quaker Workcamps as participants and leaders in DC, West Virginia and Pine Ridge.

In alignment with his dedication to education as peacemaking, there are these words from Maria Montessori: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.”

Day 36: Boyan Slat

Ocean CleanupBoyan Slat , born 27 July 1994, is a Dutch inventor, entrepreneur and aerospace engineering student who works on methods of cleaning plastic waste from the oceans. He designed a passive system for concentrating and catching plastic debris driven by ocean currents. He established The Ocean Cleanup, a foundation to further develop and eventually implement the technology that would drastically reduce the amount of time it would take to clean up all the plastic in the ocean. Initially, there was little interest but now he has attracted thousands of volunteers and $2M of funding for pilot installations. In November 2014, he won the Champions of the Earth award of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The goal is to fuel the world’s fight against oceanic plastic pollution by initiating the largest cleanup in history. The Ocean Cleanup develops technologies to extract, prevent and intercept plastic pollution. Instead of going after the plastic, Boyan devised a system though which, driven by the ocean currents, the plastic would concentrate itself, reducing the theoretical cleanup time from a millennia to mere years.  This innovation has received notice from Fast Company, and was named one of the top 25 inventions of 2015 by Time Magazine.

Take a moment today to reflect on these wise words from this remarkable young man:

“Fix this planet, before we fix another one”

You can see Boyan’s Ted Talk about The Ocean Cleanup here.


Day 34: Benjamin Lundy

Benjamin Lundy (1789-1839) was a Quaker abolitionist born in Hardwick Township, New Jersey. From 1808-1812 he lived at Wheeling, Virginia (now in West Virginia), where he was an apprentice to a saddler. Wheeling was an important headquarters of the interstate slave trade, and Lundy, troubled by the iniquity of slavery, determined to devote his life to the cause of abolition.

His apprenticeship completed, he married, and, settling in Saint Clairsville, Ohio, soonLundy built up a profitable business. There, in 1815, he organized an anti-slavery association, known as the Union Humane Society, which quickly grew to more than 500, and he assisted Charles Osborne in editing the Philanthropist. In 1819-1820, he went to St. Louis, Missouri and took an active part in the slavery controversy. In 1821 he founded an anti-slavery paper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, at Mount Pleasant, Ohio. This periodical was published successively in Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania, although as times sporadically when he traveled and spoke out against slavery. He is said to be the first to deliver anti-slavery lectures in the US.

When the paper was located in Baltimore (1829-1830), Lundy was assisted in editing by William Lloyd Garrison. The two were alike in their hostility to slavery, but Garrison was an advocate of immediate emancipation on the soil, while Lundy was committed to schemes of colonization abroad. Within a few months, while Lundy was absent in Mexico, Garrison published extremely radical articles demanding immediate emancipation and asserting that the domestic slave trade was as piratical as the foreign. Garrison was brought to trial for criminal libel, fined, and imprisoned. This occurrence so reduced the circulation of the Genius that a friendly dissolution of partnership between Lundy and Garrison took place. It also raised up such a hostile spirit in Baltimore that Lundy shortly afterwards moved the paper to Washington, D.C., where, after some years, it failed.

Besides traveling through many states of the United States to deliver anti-slavery lectures, Lundy visited Haiti twice, in 1825 and 1829; the Wilberforce Colony of freedmen and refugee slaves in Canada in 1830-1831; and Texas, in 1832 and again in 1833; all these visits being made, in part, to find a suitable place outside the United States to which emancipated slaves might be sent. Between 1820 and 1830, according to a statement made by Lundy himself, he traveled “more than 5000 miles on foot and 20,000 in other ways, visited 19 states of the Union, and held more than 200 public meetings.” He was bitterly denounced by slaveholders and also by such non-slaveholders as disapproved of all anti-slavery agitation, and in January 1827 he was assaulted and seriously injured by a slave-trader, Austin Woolfolk, whom he had severely criticized in his paper.

In 1836-1838 Lundy edited in Philadelphia a new anti-slavery weekly, The National Enquirer, which he had founded, and which under the editorship of John G. Whittier, Lundy’s successor, became The Pennsylvania Freeman. In 1838 Lundy moved to Lowell, Illinois, where he printed several copies of the re-established Genius of Universal Emancipation. There he died.

In honor of his spirit for change that was reflected through his patience and perseverance, here are his sentiments about the purpose of his work: “The end and aim of this publication is the gradual, though total, abolition of slavery in the United States of America.”

Day 23: Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, who lived between 1886 and 1967, was an Englsih poet, writer, and soldier. Because of his poetry, which described the horrors of the trenches, he became on of the leading poets of the First World War. Many of his poems also called into question the role of politicians in extending wars at the expense of and exploitation of soldiers.  

Siegfried_Sassoon_by_George_Charles_Beresford_(1915)Sassoon became a focal point for dissent within armed forces when he made a protest against the continuation of the war in his “Soldier’s Declaration” of 1917. After that, he got sent to a military psychiatric hospital where he met Wilfried Owen, who greatly influenced him.

Sassoon later won acclaim for his work, notably his autobiography, known as the “Sherston Trilogy”. Having matured greatly as a result of his military service, continued to seek emotional fulfilment, initially in a succession of love affairs with men. To many peoples surprise, he then married Hester Gatty – this led to the birth of a child.

However, the marriage was broken down after the Second World War, Sassoon apparently unable to find a compromise between the solitude he enjoyed and the companionship he craved. He then was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1951 and towards the end of his life, he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Siegfried Sassoon died one week before his 81st birthday.

In 1985, Sassoon was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Examples of the writings of Sassoon – words that have a timelessness to them and certainly speak to the times we live in:

“I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.” 

“I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”

So for today, take a moment to reflect on one of Sassoon’s poems:

Does it matter? -losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.

Day 20: Colman McCarthy

Colman McCarthy (1938 -) is an American journalist, pacifist, educator, lecturer, and long-time peace activist. From 1969-1997 he was a columnist for the Washington Post, writing on everything from sports to politics to religion to health to education to poverty, and was referred to by The Washingtonian as the “liberal conscience of the Washington Post.” The Smithsonian wrote of him as “a man of profound spiritual awareness.”  He has also been a regular guest on CNN. He is a frequent speaker on college and high school campuses around the country. He has also taught classes at Georgetown Law School, Catholic University, University of Maryland, American University, Wilson High School (DC), Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School (MD), and School Without Walls (DC). Among his 7000 students include people who are now members of Congress, college presidents, and community business leaders such as Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets.

ColmanMcCarthyIn 1985, McCarthy founded the Center for Peace Studies to help people begin or expand their peace studies. This organization’s advisory board lists long-time peace activist and legendary singer/songwriter Joan Baez and humanitarian Arun Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson).

McCarthy’s curriculum in the classroom is often from his own writings, including “I’d Rather Teach Peace”, and the classes themselves are lively conversations meant to expose students to the philosophy of pacifism and to methods of non-violent conflict resolution. Flowing from this philosophy, students are only graded because the schools mandate grading, but McCarthy does not advocate for grading as it reinforces unhealthy attitudes about thinking.  As with so many things, his work is not without controversy, such as when some students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase called for a more balanced approach the issues (2006) and when he called for ending ROTC presence on college campuses (2010), but it is when these controversies can be respectfully discussed rather than avoided that true peacemaking and non-violent resolution can take place.

With this in mind, consider this message from McCarthy: “It’s too easy only to blame the militarists, racists, sexists and other pushers of violence for the mess we’re in. What is harder is self-examination, moving beyond caring by looking inward to ask the personal question: What more should I be doing every day to bring about a peace and justice based world, whether across the ocean or across the living room?”

Day 37: Mary Harris Jones

Mary Harris Jones (1837-1930) was born in Ireland and raised by poor parents. With the blighted potatoes causing the Great Hunger, she and her father were among the 200,000 people who left Ireland. They settled in Canada, and at age 12  Mary was sent to a convent school. Always an independent spirit, she left after two terms, making her way via Michigan to Memphis, TN, where she married George Jones, an ironworker and union man. They had four children together. Always poor, the Jones’ were unable to leave Memphis when yellow fever swept through. Her husband and all four children succumbed to the disease. Devastated as she was, this experience did not destroy her.


She moved to Chicago, making a living sewing dresses for wealthy woman, but she lost her shop in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Again, she picked herself up, surviving an economic depression. She continued as a seamstress, but developed a strong dislike for the artistocrats who employed her because they ignored the plight of the jobless who wandered the street.  Over the next 4+ decades of her life, she channeled this into a tireless and fierce devotion for improving the working conditions through organizing unions throughout the country. Her initial work was in the violent climate of mining, but extended to mills and factories, as she advocated for all workers regardless of gender, race or age. She was not, however, a champion of the 19th Amendment, saying “You don’t need the vote to raise hell.” From Congress to corporate offices around the country, she was feared (denounced in the Senate as the “grandmother of all alligators”, and often called “the most dangerous woman in the world”). To others, she was called the “Angel of Miners” or, more simply, “Mother Jones.”

Today, we take time to honor this remarkable woman. She faced some of the biggest hardships that one can face – death of her children, famine, plagues and fires – and not only survived but changed the world with her words. Among them is this reminder for today: “Reformation, like education, is a journey, not a destination.”

Day 36: Lois Johnson

I first met Lois (1930-2012) on World AIDS Day in 1996. Lois had lost her oldest son, David Arnesan, to AIDS in 1995. During David’s illness, Lois and her family had to face not only his illness, but the fact that David was gay. Lois had long known this, but felt David would let her know in his own time. Once out, Lois worked with her church to make sure it was a place where her son was welcome. “I just can’t see how you cannot love your children” was a constant message. Her church became the first in conservative Wheaton to be “open and affirming” and, later to perform same-gender weddings. After David’s death, through a grieving parents’ support group, Lois was presented with the fact that she had an opportunity to use her story to help break the prejudice and fear that was fueling the AIDS pandemic, and “with that opportunity comes responsibility”. For the 13 years I knew Lois, she was my “partner in crime”, as she called it. She was also my friend and guide. She embraced opportunities as responsibilities. She kept David’s spirit alive while adapting to changes in the pandemic. She led HIV-testing efforts at her church and wherever she went with a clear message that we are all at-risk, and she joined me in the efforts to advocate for approval of self-testing. She was always willing to challenge assumptions and the status quo, such as the time she and a 20 year-old Wheaton College student got tested for HIV together, causing gossip about the age difference of this “couple”. I still hear her laughing about that.


Lois (center) hitting the pavement in DC advocating for more HIV testing and options

It was not all light and easy for her. Shortly after David’s passing, her own marriage ended. She later reconnected with and married a high-school sweetheart who sadly died from cancer after 6 years. But there was great joy, including three grandchildren, and all the love that surrounded her right up until her own sudden passing in 2012. Shortly before David died, he said to Lois “If I had only known how much I was loved, maybe it would have been different”. For Lois, it was always about love, and it was her love that made things so different for so many of us. As she so often said, she was grateful for her life after David’s death; she just wished he could have been here to be a part of it. For those that knew her, we are better for having been graced with her love.

So for today, take some time to reflect on these words from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that evoke the spirit of Lois: “I think modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. It is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love.”

Submitted by Brad Ogilvie

Day 14: Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy (b. 1961) is an Indian author and political activist best known for her novel “The God of Small Things” (2007) and for her involvement in human rights and environmental causes. She is a staunch anti-globalist and sees American-style capitalism as the culprit of much of the world’s violence. She sees the arms industry, the oil industry, the major media networks and US foreign policy as all being controlled by the same business combines and acting in self-interest, often claiming its legitimacy directly from God. She also actively speaks out against nuclear weapons and against oppressive policies of regional governments (India, Sri Lanka).


For today, consider her words: “It’s odd how those who dismiss the peace movement as utopian don’t hesitate to proffer the most absurdly dreamy reasons for going to war: To stamp out terrorism, install democracy, eliminate fascism, and most delusionally, to ‘rid the world of evil doers.’”

Day 13: Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier (b. 1928) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian and humanitarian. In early 1945, while Vanier was visiting Paris where his father was serving as Canadian Ambassador, he and his mother went to assist Concentration Camp survivors. This was a profoundly moving encounter he never forgot. After a 5 year stint in the Canadian navy, his spiritual calling to “do something else” led to resigning his commission in 1950, ultimately leading to a PhD in philosophy. In the 1960’s, his spiritual work led to developing communities around the world for people with developmental disabilities after becoming aware of the institutionalization of these folks. In 1971 he co-founded “Faith and Light”, an international movement of forums for people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends.


Today, there are over 1800 Faith and Light communities around the world. He also became active in organizing a movement called “Faith and Sharing” which are retreats where people from all walks of life are welcome. As of 2013, there are 13 communities in North America that organize annual retreats and days of prayer. The following, from his book “Finding Peace”, is an expression of his work:

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work – hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss – loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.”