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peace sign history

November 22, 1963 is a day that many baby boomers remember: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.  Since 1990, November 22nd has been designated as “Stop the Violence Day,” and its proximity to Thanksgiving gives us a chance to combine our gratitude with support for those who have been affected by violence – and to make a pact to treat each other with a little (or even a lot) more kindness.

This November 22nd is especially meaningful because it’s the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death. To honor his memory and spread a message of peace, there are events planned throughout the United States. For starters, American University in Washington, D.C. is commemorating Kennedy’s speech “A Strategy of Peace” as “one of the president’s finest, and one of the most inspiring commencement addresses ever delivered.” And they believe that with this 50-year-old message, “Kennedy’s words ring as true today as they did 50 years ago as we continue building peace for all time.”

The peace sign itself got its start shortly before the Kennedy administration, created in 1958 by Gerald Herbert Holtom. His design initially stood specifically for nuclear disarmament, which expanded once it hit the U.S. in 1960. Shortly thereafter, it was adopted as the symbol to promote peace. The same year, President Kennedy signed legislation recognizing the Peace Corps as a permanent agency (which, to be fair, was originally set up to defeat communism but instead turned into a method to teach those in undeveloped countries how to build schools, dig wells, grow crops, and so on).

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While this Stop the Violence Day might not be as well-known as the more global movement known as V-Day (which focuses on violence against women and children), it’s an important message to embrace. Being a better person during the holiday season is usually a given; we’re told that Santa’s watching from an early age, and encouraged to be our best selves during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. You don’t need an excuse to show some love year ‘round and promote peace. Let thankfulness – as well as embracing peace – be a part of your everyday routine.

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