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Children And Ambassador From East Germany Talk About World Peace

December 13, 1988

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ East Germany’s ambassador to the United States came to the Midwest seeking the child’s view of peace on Earth, and that’s what he got.

″It would feel kind of like a storm on an ocean that’s really rough, and in the morning, it’s all peaceful and calm and quiet,″ said 10-year-old Megan Fornelli, one of the 15 youngsters at a meeting with Ambassador Gerhard Herder. ″A way to be peaceful is to stop being selfish, because a lot of times wars are started because one country wanted something and another country wanted something.″

Herder participated in the conference Monday at the Montessori Children’s House west of St. Louis. He also delivered a letter from Erich Honecker, the German Democratic Republic’s leader, videotapes created by children in East Germany, and a book about the socialist country.

The discussion of peace began with a question from one of the moderators - 9-year-old Ben Rondot.

″If you have peace inside of you, what does it feel like, look like and sound like?″ he asked.

Seven-year-old Ben Oberkfell had an answer.

″Peace is like a light that shines like a candle in someone’s heart,″ the youngster said.

Having peace inside you is like ″floating on a cloud, playing with friends,″ said Trisha Guenther, 7.

Herder was struck by the childrens’ simple eloquence.

″I feel very quiet and relaxed,″ he said. ″I feel happy because I am in the company of good friends I like so much, and in this circumstance I feel the importance of peace.″

Herder’s visit and gifts were in response to a letter written to Honecker by 7-year-old Brett Fornelli, Megan’s brother and a participant in a project called Kids for Peace. The project began last spring when 170 children from the St. Louis area wrote letters to leaders around the world. The children wrote to promote world peace and to request that kids everywhere share video programs to promote the cause.

The first set of letters was mailed in May. Since then, the children have received responses from educators, television stations and government officials from around the world.

But the response from East Germany produced the first face-to-face meeting.

Herder told the children that a world at peace would mean no more wars. People would work to understand and help each other.

″Everybody would be happy,″ Herder said. ″Everybody would help each other to maintain a happy life. That would be global peace on earth. This is what I’m working for.″

He urged the children to continue working toward peace all their lives.

″Unity and hard work for peace, that is the message I would send to all children,″ he said. ″Our strength is friendship, our strength is unity, our strength is cooperation. And you children, you are our future.″

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