SOUTH PORTLAND – After becoming a father, Christopher Hershey, of South Portland, began thinking about the best way to teach his children the values of peace, such as caring for one another, acting on behalf of the disadvantaged, speaking with an open heart and taking responsibility for their own community.

While teaching his children how to practice the values of peace in their daily lives, Hershey, now 40, turned to some of his personal heroes to illustrate his point. He then had the idea of writing a book for kids, which would use prose, poetry and art to engage them and show them that anyone can make a difference.

Hershey spent about two years working on his book, “The Art of Peace,” which features illustrations by Hazel Quintanilla and was published earlier this year.

According the book’s website, “The Art of Peace celebrates some of the great people who have become role models – indeed symbols themselves – for peacemaking worldwide. Using thoughtful expressions of art and beautiful prose, the book helps to connect children to these leaders and to the idea that change happens with just one thought, just one action, just one expression of peace.”

Some of those featured in his book include Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hershey, who formerly worked for the U.S. Department of State, and his wife, Rebecca, who is a civil rights attorney and human rights advocate, have three children. Right now Hershey said his main job is “being a dad, which is conceivably one of the toughest jobs in the world.”

In addition to the State Department, Hershey was also an international policy adviser and foreign affairs officer at the White House. In addition, he served as a diplomatic member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. He also joined the Air Force at 18.

This November, Hershey ran for one of the two available seats on the South Portland Board of Education. However, the incumbents won three more years on the board.

This week Hershey spoke with the Current about his book and what he hopes both kids and adults can learn about practicing the art of peace.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the “The Art of Peace”?

A: I was always into politics and world affairs, but when my wife and I had kids, I realized how many of the values I try to instill in them every day are actually the values of peace, just practiced on a smaller scale.

In order to teach them about peace I started talking to them about some heroes of mine who advocate for peace, and after a while of doing that, the idea of a book was born.

Q: How did you choose the peacemakers featured?

A: Some are people who kept coming up in discussions with my children. Some are from recent headlines, some represent younger voices or more creative voices of peace, which might not otherwise come to mind immediately.

“The Art of Peace” is as much about how to make peace and how to express peace as it is about the history or profiles of each peacemaker. It also uses a variety of different formats – prose, art, poetry – to provide examples for kids.

Most of all, this book is dedicated to my family who are the inspiration behind everything I do – my children who bring light and energy to my life, and my wife who inspires me daily with her passion for the law, human rights and equal rights.

Q: How did you choose Hazel Quintanilla to do the illustrations?

A: While working with the text, I knew the illustrations would be, in some ways, the biggest challenge in terms of being visually engaging. When I met Hazel, I knew her artwork and the writing would be a good match.

We started talking about the book and the idea that most of the peacemakers featured have already been profiled widely. So, I really wanted a unique artistic style, like Hazel’s, to highlight the story of each person. The idea is that everyone, even people who are famous, or powerful, came from somewhere.

Hazel’s approach is very child-focused but her images are also thoughtfully created so that it draws anyone in, no matter their age. Even now, after seeing the images repeatedly, I find myself looking at the details in the illustrations and finding something new.

Q: In your mind, what does peace mean and what is the message you most want people to take away from the book?

A: At its core, peace is about respect, human rights and equality for everyone. This book is about those who work tirelessly every day toward achieving that type of peace, as well as spreading good will among people of all nationalities, languages, religions and ethnicity.

Working in public service my entire adult life, I am accustomed to big, grand thoughts – as adults, we see huge problems in the world and we want to confront them until they are solved. But peacemaking, even on a global scale, really happens between individuals.

My hope is that the book has something for all ages. For both kids and adults, I wanted to draw the connection between peace on a global scale, peace at the local level and peace in their own lives.

For kids, some or all of the people profiled may be brand new to them. If they identify with even one aspect of one of the stories or illustrations, they can take that and run with it.

Q: How have your years of public service molded or changed you?

A: In my years of public service, I have learned so much, especially about putting others first. I have also traveled all over the country and the world and encountered people who were working toward similar goals, which have definitely molded the way I think about peace.

A closer look

To learn more about “The Art of Peace,” a kid-centered book by South Portland resident Christopher Hershey, go online to www.theartofpeacebook.com.

Christopher Hershey, of South Portland, has written a book focusing on how to practice peace, which he defines as respect, human rights and equality for all. Courtesy photo


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