Peace Bringer Spotlight

Posted on: December 17th, 2013 by jeni No Comments

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Peace Bringer

Winter/Spring 2014

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Nile Rodgers & Nancy Hunt

Founder & President of the

We Are Family Foundation

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When the tragic events of 9/11 occurred back in 2001, Nile Rodgers knew that he wanted to use his talents as a musician, songwriter, and producer to remind the world that peace matters, and that peace is possible. He and his life partner, Nancy Hunt, quickly decided to use Nile’s hit song, “We Are Family,” as the incentive for a non-profit organization that would remind the world of the importance of learning about and celebrating peace.

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To launch their organization, they wanted to honor a peacemaker at a fun event, but they were not sure “who” would exemplify that image of hope and peace that the world needed during such a challenging time. In 2002, Nancy happened to be watching the Larry King Live show, when 11-year-old Mattie J.T. Stepanek was sharing his vision of a world at peace, and his desire to become a peacemaker. Nancy knew immediately that this was the connection they were seeking, and Mattie became the first “Peacemaker Award” recipient celebrated by the new We Are Family Foundation.

Across the next years, Nile and Nancy worked collaboratively with Mattie to move a message of global peace forward. When Mattie died in 2004, Nile and Nancy remained committed to continuing Mattie’s efforts toward personal and world peace, and began working collaboratively with Jeni Stepanek, Mattie’s mom, to share the message of hope and peace Mattie shaped and shared through his books of poetry and peace essays.

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In 2005, WAFF changed the name of the award Mattie received to the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award, which is now given annually during the WAFF fundraising gala. And in 2008, WAFF launched a global teen leadership initiative called Three Dot Dash (3DD). This initiative’s anchor event, the annual Just Peace Summit, is rooted in the message Mattie shared in his final book, “Just Peace: A Message of Hope,” in which Mattie writes:

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“I believe that the reality of peace begins within each one of us, when we have our basic needs met and when we are satisfied with who we are as a person; peace continues through our understanding, interactions, and involvement within and between our kin, our communities, and our countries; and, peace is fulfilled through our respect of the earth and life, including ourselves and each other.”

More than 16 million people around the world have been positively impacted by the peace projects created by the 180 Global Teen Leaders who have been trained and mentored through the WAFF 3DD initiative so far — projects that tend to basic human needs, so that peace becomes possible.

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Now, as we celebrate individuals and groups who give of their time, their talent, and their treasure to support and share peace with others, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation  honors with deep appreciation – Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt  – our Winter/Spring 2014 Peace Bringer Spotlight.

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Nile Rodgers & Nancy Hunt — Peace Bringer Spotlight Feature

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Below are Nile and Nancy’s responses to our Spotlight interview questions.
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Peace Bringer Spotlight Honorees, Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt, during a We Are Family Foundation Gala to raise funds for peace initiatives.

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

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We are Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt. 
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Nile is an award-winning musician, songwriter, producer, author, and humanitarian. Nancy worked as the Executive Vice President of Smock Media – an art publication for a hip, mass audience — until she and Nile founded the We Are Family Foundation in 2001. Since then, Nile has served as Chair and Nancy as President of this peace-bringing non-profit.
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Nile has been known to write a hit song or two and Nancy can take a pretty good photo! And they both enjoy world travel, and sharing peace through their work and personal lives.
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Nile’s music puts smiles on faces, rhythm and groove in bodies and feet on the dance floor around the globe – no matter if you are two or 102. He has worked with many artists, including David Bowie, Chic, Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel, Adam Lambert, Madonna, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Steven Van Zandt, and more recently, Avicii and Daft Punk. (Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” album and chart topping single “Get Lucky” were recently nominated for Grammies). .
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Nile is also the co-writer of the song “We Are Family” — which is the global message of peace their organization celebrates. And in 2011, he released his autobiography entitled Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny. 

What does peace mean to you?

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Sometimes peace means no phones and no internet… sometimes it means watching and listening to the birds outside… sometimes it means doing the things that make us the happiest… but it always means having respect for those we share the planet with.

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Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt, celebrating peace through music,

and through global peace initiatives,

including “Three Dot Dash” for Global Teen Leaders.

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How do you bring peace to others? 

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The We Are Family Foundation is dedicated to the vision of a global family. We create and support programs that inspire and educate the next generation about respect, understanding and cultural diversity — while striving to solve some of our biggest global problems at the same time.

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WAFF builds global coalitions, produces international teen summits, creates worldwide curricula, and builds schools in countries with the highest illiteracy rates. One of these schools in Africa (Banko, Mali) is named in honor of Mattie J.T. Stepanek.

Nile Rodgers with Global Teen Leaders during one of the Three Dot Dash “Just Peace Summit” events.

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Also, through the We Are Family Foundation, we created both TEDxTeen events, and the Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader Program. “Three Dot Dash” is morse code for the letter “V,” which is a universal symbol for “peace.”

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The 3DD program was inspired by Mattie J.T. Stepanek’s philosophy that “Peace is Possible.” It’s signature conference, the “Just Peace Summit” was named after Mattie’s last book, “Just Peace: A Message of Hope.” We have worked with GTLs from more than 40 countries on six continents who have collectively affected millions of people globally.

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Mattie’s Mom, Jeni Stepanek, is the cornerstone of our Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader program. Jeni continues sharing and teaching Mattie’s message of peace each year at our Three Dot Dash Just Peace Summit.  She has become “Mama Peace” to all of our Global Teen Leaders. The lives of the GTLs are forever positively changed.-

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How did you first learn about Mattie?

Nile Rodgers with Mattie J.T. Stepanek during a March, 2004 event.

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Nancy couldn’t sleep one night and turned on “Larry King Live” at midnight.  Mattie was Larry’s guest that day and she was as mesmerized by Mattie reciting his poetry as Larry was.

 

Nile learned about Mattie from Nancy.  She called him while he was on tour in London and said, “I just saw the person we should honor at our first We Are Family Foundation event!  He’s 11 years old and his name is Mattie J.T. Stepanek and he just mesmerized Larry and me as he read his poetry about hope and peace.  Let’s call him!”

 

Mattie was our first We Are Family Peacemaker honoree in 2002.

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After Mattie passed, the We Are Family Foundation changed the name of its Peacemaker Award to the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award.  Each year it is presented at the We Are Family Foundation Celebration Gala. To date it has been presented to:

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  • Deepak Chopra
  • Desmond and Leah Tutu
  • Dr. Maya Angelou
  • Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D.
  • Paul Simon
  • Quincy Jones
  • The Imam and the Pastor of Nigeria

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There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think of Mattie and his belief that it is possible to have a truly peaceful world.

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Our favorite Mattie poem is “For Our World”  (in Hope Through Heartsongs and in Just Peace: A Message of Hope). The poem expresses everything we felt after 9/11.

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Our favorite Mattie quote is from his Just Peace book —  “Peace is possible if our basic human needs are met.” This is the foundation for how We Are Family Foundation identifies the Global Teen Leaders (GTLs) we work with every year. Each GTL must be working in the area of basic human needs – which in turn is helping their communities become more peaceful societies.

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Nancy Hunt, Jeni Stepanek, and Nile Rodgers, during the inaugural Just Peace Summit in 2008.-

How did you learn about Mattie’s Foundation?

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Jeni Stepanek, Mattie’s mom, shared the idea of the Foundation with us after Mattie’s passing.

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Now, Mattie’s Foundation is a We Are Family Foundation Coalition Partners for its Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader program.

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And, WAFF and 3DD are Collaborators and Partners with Mattie’s Foundation.

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Is there anything else you would like to share?

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We are honored and humbled to be recognized as Peace Bringer Honorees, especially during the theme of “Giving and Thanks.” Giving and thanks — that is the best of our humanity.

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The world is a beautiful and complex place, and the only way we move forward is to work together – peacefully. Mattie said, “Peace is possible, and peace is for all people. Choose peace!”  We believe in, teach and try to live by this statement everyday.

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Thank you, Nile and Nancy,

for being Peace Bringers.

Congratulations!

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UPDATE — During January 2014,

Nile Rodgers (with Daft Punk) won 3 Grammy Awards —

Best Pop Duo, Best Record, Best Album —

CONGRATULATIONS!

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Stay Connected with Nile and Nancy:

Twitter: @wearefamilyfdtn, @threedotdashorg and @tedxteen
Facebook: We Are Family Foundation, Three Dot Dash and TEDxTeen

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To learn more about Nile and Nancy’s peace work, visit:

www.WeAreFamilyFoundation.org

www.ThreeDotDash.org 

www.TEDxTeen.com

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To learn more about

Mattie’s Foundation & WAFF Partnership CLICK HERE…

Mattie’s Foundation & 3DD Collaboration CLICK HERE…

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Return to main Spotlight page

October Spotlight

In-Kind Support

Celebrating our "in kind" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with services and materials. Thank you ezStorage, Montgomery Printing, Parcel Plus, and Potomac Valley Brick! Read more...

Nourishment Support

Celebrating our "nourishment" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with food and services. Thank you Botanero Restaurant, Fontina Grille, Safeway, Coffee Republic, and Red Hot & Blue! Read more...

Community Support

Celebrating our "community" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with commitment and participation. Thank you City of Rockville, King Farm Citizen's Assembly, Kick's Karate & Mix 107.3! Read more...

Champion Support

Celebrating our "Foundation Champions" -- sponsors and volunteers of all ages who support Mattie's Foundation through donations, brick sponsorships, participation in our activities and events. Thank you!!! Read more...

- Mattie J.T. Stepanek