“Don’t ever underestimate the warrior heart of a conscientious objector.” In such a volatile world as we live in today, these words seem to echo in our hearts and minds. Spoken by Walt Michael, founder and executive director of Common Ground on the Hill, these words are as true now as they were in the 1960’s during America’s pivotal youth uprising.
Common Ground on the Hill is a non-profit organization in residence on the McDaniel campus since 1994. Founded on the premise that there is a “common human thread unifying all people expressed in various artistic traditions,” Common Ground on the Hill is the umbrella organization of the Ira and Mary Zepp Center for Nonviolent Protest and Peace Education.
According to the goals composed by Ira Zepp who has since past away, Common Ground on the Hill wants “to provide the opportunity to teach and to study various musical instruments and art forms representing various ethnic and cultural traditions.” The organization focuses on the unity of the community through cultural and peaceful appreciation.
Michael is an alumnus of McDaniel College. He was a student back in the 60’s during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. He says he “arrived at the conclusion that violence is not the way to ‘fix’ a broken world,” and became a conscientious objector, walking that path ever since.
Though this may seem outdated, the lessons and themes celebrated at the Zepp Center and Common Ground on the Hill have been successfully practiced around the world. The Egyptian revolutionaries, unified in a devotion to peaceful protest, successfully overcame the oppression of their ruling dictator, just as the Libyan radicals are trying against President Gadhafi.
While it is difficult to believe students at a small liberal arts college in Maryland can change the world, we can change our community. “The answers to our world problems are not found in violent, transient solutions,” states Michael. “We are all connected and transparent; we live in a global society.”
The organization offers two separate Tradition Weeks every summer which students can enroll in for undergrad and graduate credit. The Zepp Center offers classes in nonviolence in Traditions Weeks as a part of our Distinctive Lecture Series.
Michael suggests that students attend Common Ground on the Hill in July and enroll in the Zepp Center class, “Passing It On,” and a myriad of other class offerings. Common Ground on the Hill is “off the radar screen of our McDaniel students,” says Michael, “because it takes place in the summer months. Students should visit our website and pick up a catalog at the Decker information desk.”