UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘Peace is possible’: Iraq War Veteran & Activist Gives Talk at UMass Boston

On March 29, Paul K Chappell, an Iraq war veteran, was invited to speak at the University of Massachusetts Boston about the need for peace literacy and the possibility of ending war between nations.

“Is a peaceful world really possible? I have to talk about the human condition first,” Chappell said.

Chappell’s visit was sponsored by UMass Boston’s History Department, the Honors College, the Philosophy Department, and the Political Science Department. The event took place at the Campus Center in Ballroom B. Graduate students and undergraduate students attended. 

Chappell is the son of a half-white and half-black father who had fought in the Vietnam and Korean wars, and according to Chappell, “dealt with a lot of war-trauma.” Chappell’s mother was Korean. Chappell grew up in Alabama for most of his childhood in a violent household and described the experience as “alienating” because of his multi-faceted identity.

Chappell told the audience that one of the reasons why he became interested in peace was thinking about whether there was a possibility in protecting society from “people who have suffered from extreme trauma” and express rage with violence.

Chappell graduated in 2002 from West Point, one of the most highly-selective military academies in the country, located in New York. He was then deployed to Iraq where he fought and returned home in 2009.     

“In the army, I learned that I could have less safety as a civilian,” Chappell stated, along with less physical comfort and freedom. He continued, “But I had much more purpose, meaning, belonging, and self-worth.”  

Chappell said on the human condition that purpose and meaning provide people with the motivation to live and ultimately be happier with their lives.

He stated his idea to the audience in a framework, claiming, “There are two kinds of poverty; the first kind is material poverty, the second kind is the poverty of purpose.”

Chappell shared an experience he had conversing about poverty with someone from Uganda. In the conversation, Chappell mentioned poverty when speaking of Uganda; the man from the country asked if the wealthy were really happier than people living in Uganda.

“We have to understand that the people suffering from poverty of belonging and self worth are way more dangerous than people suffering from material poverty,” Chappell told the audience.    

Thinking about peace as a possibility since childhood, Chappell has published various works about the experience of war. He has published ”The Road to Peace,” which is a seven-book series that explores the concept of peace and the conditions of being human. 
An audience member thanked Chappell for his efforts in peace literacy saying, “It’s not about empathy, it’s about competition.” He continued, “It’s about being trained to be especially vigilant to the lack of trust worthiness to those around you; we also teach the opposite of peace literacy.”   

Chappell is currently the Peace Leadership Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF). NAPF has allowed him to give lectures all across the country, and he has also taught courses about peace-leadership.