Archive for Thursday, May 17, 2007

Passionate peace activist to go from graduation to Corps

May 17, 2007


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Peace is at the center of virtually everything Jon Dennis does.

He's a founder and president of Kansas University Peacebuilders, he's a member of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice and he's joined the Peace Corps.

Dennis, who will walk down Campanile Hill during KU commencement on Sunday, has even been arrested for his actions in a Washington, D.C., march for peace.

Lately, he's been leading Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, a group of students who pray for an end to the violence in that Middle Eastern country.

"It was a period of quite a bit of growth," Dennis said. "I think the roots have always been there, but my interest in peace has really sprouted here."

And yet, his time at KU, which he said has been a "challenge and really insightful," came about only as an accident.

Dennis has always had a passion for music - he continues to play the guitar - and moved to Lawrence with a friend to be part of a band. When he got here, he decided he might as well take some classes.

"I thought I was going to major in psychology so I could be a counselor, particularly to the homeless," Dennis said.

Instead, he is pursuing a degree in religious studies with a minor in peace and conflict studies.

His undergraduate thesis centers on the religious conversion and development of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., particularly how that affected his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"I'm looking at how his upbringing in the black church affected his development," Dennis said.

Robert Shelton, KU professor of religious studies, is supervising Dennis' work, for which he was given an award for undergraduate research.

"He's explored a lot about how that has happened in the past, and he's trying to give good attention to possibilities for the future," Shelton said. "He's very creative. He is very interested in how social change can happen in a very positive way."

The award will allow Dennis to continue his work into the summer before leaving for the Peace Corps, where he will likely work in a central Asian country, such Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan.

"One of the 'Stans," he jokes.

Though it's a volatile part of the world - Turkmenistan borders Afghanistan - Dennis is happy with the potential assignment.

Shelton said that every action Dennis has taken in college has been the result of careful consideration, even the time he was arrested at a peaceful protest in Washington, D.C., when he failed to move at the order of police.

"He gives very careful consideration to how his behavior in these situations may help other people make their own decisions about these difficult matters," Shelton said.

After the Peace Corps, Dennis plans to come back to the U.S. and pursue a master's degree in peace studies, and eventually attend law school, with an emphasis on domestic human-rights law.

All that, however, is at least two years away. For now, he's focused on the community development work he'll be doing.


Katie Van Blaricum 11 years, 1 month ago

I've seen this dude around town....sometimes I mistake him for Leonardo DiCaprio! But good for him! Good luck to you Jon!

jhawkdpt 11 years, 1 month ago

My brother is finishing his two years in the Peace Corps. I wish him luck and I think he'll find success. From my brother's perspective I think he'll have some tough challenges...

warthog 11 years, 1 month ago

"Dennis, who will walk down Campanile Hill during KU commencement on Sunday, has even been arrested for his actions in a Washington, D.C., march for peace."

Hey... now there's a ringing endorsement. All the folks I respect the most have been arrested for something.

Look, I wish Dennis all the luck in the world, but don't ever try to convince me that someone is a better person because he got arrested. I'm sure it was justified, of course. Afterall, one can't make a point and stay within the boundaries of the law at the same time. That wouldn't be creative and wouldn't get as much attention.

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