Ann Wright is a lightening rod for peace and justice. Name a political hot spot and Ann has been there, leading one to suspect that she holds the record for frequent flyer miles on the peace and justice circuit.
In the past few months alone Ann has joined in protests at Jeju Island in South Korea protesting the construction of an American military base, which threatens the island’s sacred coral reefs. She allied with the relief efforts in Greece to supply provisions to migrant families; sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza; and participated in the encampment at Standing Rock.
In between actions, Ann lugs her trusty zebra stripped suitcase to catch airplanes to meet her heavy schedule of talks and interviews. In short, this is a 70- year-old activist who is committed to peace and justice 24/7!
A Buddhist monk once told me that some people are born with the “peace gene.” Unquestionably Ann carries this gene.
While stationed at Fort Bragg, Ann challenged the discrimination faced by female soldiers by organizing meetings for enlisted women to share their experiences. The higher ups learned told Ann, “This is a matter for the Defense Department.” Ann responded to the tune of, ‘Well then let them do something about this; until they do, we’ll continue to meet.’
During her 29 years in the Army Ann rose to the rank of Colonel. While in the Army she earned both a law degree and a master’s in national security affairs. Ann served as a US diplomat in in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
During her tenure in Sierra Leone, civil war broke out. It fell to Ann to organize safe passage for the hundreds of embassy staff and locals in danger, for which she received the State Department Award for Heroism.
True to form, Ann’s diplomatic career carries traces of her outspoken personality. A miscalculated US bombing in Somalia resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocents prompting her to label it a “war crime.” Later this story was leaked to the New York Times.
Ann’s battle with her conscience ended her military career. When she learned of the decision to invade Iraq, she realized she couldn’t support a war that she considered immoral and illegal. In 2003, on the eve of the bombing of Iraq, she sent her letter of resignation to Colin Powell.
Post military and diplomatic corps, Ann has put her heart and soul into the peace movement, rapidly gaining prominence for her courage to jump into the fray and for her compelling speeches and written dispatches. Now Ann is in a new army, the army of peace workers.
In her protest actions Ann frequently teams up with Vets for Peace, (Ann is a member of their Advisory Board) and Codepink, the women’s peace group. On International Women’s Day in 2015 Ann joined with a Codepink delegation of 30 women, including Gloria Steinem, who crossed the DMZ line into North Korea to advocate a peace treaty between North and South Korea.
Ann has chalked up six crossings on freedom flotillas to Gaza to protest Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. She has had dinner with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy, expressing outrage over his confinement there and lamenting, “It looks like he’ll be there for awhile.”
At the beginning and end of her long activist days, Ann finds time to write, producing numerous articles a month. Her law background creeps into her writing, distinguishing her dispatches with their accuracy and full details.
Given the dire state of our planet, I often wonder how some people can be hopeful. Listening to Ann relate the back-stories of support and good will that have accompanied her actions, her optimism becomes clear.
Ann describes how the female mayor of Barcelona orchestrated a huge send-off for the women who sailed from Barcelona to Gaza, or about being inspired by the large outpouring of support for Standing Rock. These are stories that rarely make it into the mainstream press, but Ann lives a life where stories like these are front and center.
We need more Ann Wrights. We need more bold actions, like the Women’s Boat to Gaza, to turn the tide of the corporate-military machine that seems to have little respect for human life.
Small actions make a difference too. Speak out when you see injustice; march in protests; write letters to the editor, encourage your children and grandchildren to work for peace and justice.
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