Peace Scholar Post: “Backyard Mountains” by Cate Anderson

Backyard Mountains

At home, my family often reports their “high”s and “low”s at the dinner table, so I thought I would organize my blog in the same manner. Fortunately, this week was filled with two highs – both excursions.

High point #1

“Just look straight ahead, and focus on the rock in front of you! Don’t look too far up and definitely don’t look down.” This became somewhat of a mantra as we hoisted our bodies up each rock to a new, higher ledge. Cliffs sat on both sides of the jagged rocks, sloping down to turquoise glacial lakes. Our group of International Summer School students were taking part in a ISS weekend excursion to the Jotunheimen National Park. When we finally reached the top of the ridge, we finally allowed ourselves to look down. How stunning. I felt elated. More importantly, I felt empowered. I had climbed a mountain with the support of my fellow hikers, something I had never dreamed of back in south-central Minnesota.

High point #2

One of the many exciting parts of our Peace Scholar seminar in Oslo is our schedule of field trips within Oslo. This week we visited CARE, an international NGO dedicated to fighting poverty mainly through the empowerment of women ( As we discussed the way local women have approached their communities to make improvements in areas such as maternal health and equal education for girls, I was reminded of 2011′s prize winners Tawakkol Karman, Leymah Gbowee, and Ellen Sirleaf Johnson.

Sometimes when I think of these women, I feel overwhelmed. How could someone like me ever do as much for peace as they have? Where do you even start? After our meeting, I went straight to the source and read some interviews of the three laureates. It’s almost like Ms. Gbowee understood just what I needed to hear:

“Our message is that women’s role in the peace and security process is crucial…There is no way you can fix a community if you only use half that community. The three women who won the Nobel Prize today didn’t set out to conquer the world. They set out to transform their society first, and that’s a message for all of us. Do peace and justice at home, in your back yard. It’s time for us to start looking in our own communities.” (Article found at


Her words spurred me to think about my own community. What is going on in my own backyard? What mountains exist in my community, waiting to be climbed together? Just like scaling the ridge in Jotunheimen, maybe sometimes we need to “just look straight ahead and focus on the rock in front of you!” Rock by rock, rock by rock.

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