International Peace Poem Project


Melinda Gohn

Since six-year-old Libby Barker wrote the first two lines about her thoughts on peace in Lahaina in the Hawaiian Islands in June 1996, the International Peace Poem has grown to more than 200,000 lines from people in more than 90 countries including Willie Nelson, Arlo Guthrie, Miss America, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Billy Collins. 

The International Peace Poem reaches into the classrooms, where students spend study time focusing on the importance of peace and nonviolence in their lives and others and looking at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model for achieving change through nonviolent methods. One of his role models was Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi.

We were invited to the United Nations to participate in Peace Millennium Day in 2000 to share our work promoting peace in education. For the past 24 years, we have focused on encouraging the writing of poetry and peace in the classrooms and honoring the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tens of thousands of students in Hawaii and elsewhere have sent peace poems to us. We hold Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards ceremonies yearly on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.
Succeeding governors and mayors provide certificates to winners, and for a couple of years, while the nation was in lockdown due to the Covid virus, Hawaii’s First Lady Dawn Ige delivered the opening speech via video, and students from the four island counties were recognized on video with winners having the opportunity to recite their poems. 2023 marked our return to regular physical venues with gatherings on several islands. "To view videos of virtual award ceremonies, click here.  "Here."
Several sponsors and artists each year donate posters, paintings, hand-made jewelry, and ‘ukuleles to top winners. Hundreds of parents gather in each county to celebrate their child’s achievements.

We hope to expand our educational program in the near future to form chapters in other parts of the United States and are looking for teachers in other states to send their poems along with a photograph of their students to us. We have a couple of lesson plans that teachers may use in their classrooms. We believe there is a growing need to create a peaceful atmosphere of respect and creativity in our schools and our society. Writing about peace and nonviolence is a step in the right direction. Click on the Globe at your top left to view  Peace Poems sent to us by students from more than 90 countries.

"You can use this form by going to the Globe, click on Add Your Own Lines, and send us your Peace Poem."
As an individual or part of a classroom. It may be sent in the language of your country and hopefully, with an English translation. Please type your name, city, and country!

Many thanks to the scores of volunteers who help at the awards ceremonies each year in the Hawaiian Islands and the businesses and artists who donate prizes. One of the major contributors has been the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Oiwi TV, with their wonderful photographs of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule’a as it sails on goodwill missions worldwide.   Photographs of the Hokule’a as well as other wonderful photographs have been put on limited edition posters and given as prizes to finalists attending our annual ceremonies.

    "Mahalo"  Melinda Gohn "Peace Poem Director"

Libby Barker

Libby Barker started the International Peace Poem
Project in Lahaina by contributing her lines of poetry in 1996.

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Peace Millennium Day at the United Nations in New York.

President Holkieri

International Peace Poem Coordinator Melinda Gohn presents a lei from Maui,
Hawaii to United Nations President Harry Holkieri during Peace Millennium Day
at the United Nations in New York. Gohn
and other members of the International Peace Poem Project
were invited to participate in observance on April 19, 2000.

Gohn described the International Peace Poem
as “…a document of love, understanding, and hope written mainly by youth.
"Their voice is the voice of the future. Their hope  is for peace in the millennium…”

Maeh-ki (Red-sky) El-Issa

Maeh-ki (Red-sky) El-Issa (second from left) reads a peace poem written
by Mother Teresa in honor of his late mother, Ingrid Washinawatok, slain on
a cultural education mission to Colombia on March 4, 1999.
Also on stage, are International Peace Poem coordinators, Melinda Gohn (left)
and (right), Allen Lewis.
El-Issa recited a verse from Saint Mother Teresa:
“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith,
the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit
of service is peace.”

Maeh-ki (Red-sky) El-Issa Colombian First Lady, Mrs. Nohra Puyana de Pastrana,
accepts an International Peace Poem scroll and a maile lei from Maeh-ki El-Issa,
before United Nations dignitaries during the Millennium
Peace Day at the United Nations.

Marshal Joner

In Honor of Marsha Rose Joyner
  (May 22, 1938-April 10, 2021)

Marsha Rose Joyner, who worked with members of the community to make
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a public holiday in Hawaii, played a vital role
in the growth of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards,
serving as an organizer on Oahu and a presenter of awards for decades.

Joyner was a former president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Coalition-Hawaii.
She was one of five young African-American girls who integrated Baltimore’s
Western Senior High School, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling
that segregation was unconstitutional.

She belonged to a family that founded an African-American newspaper
more than 130 years ago. She was 82.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Poetry Awards 

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi

On Oahu

Scores of students
finalists gathered at Honolulu Mission Memorial Auditorium to receive
their congratulatory certificates for their original poems about peace and nonviolence, honoring
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work during the civil rights movement.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi provided the certificates.

Farrington High School Clark Duran of Farrington High School was recognized as the grand prize winner on
Oahu at the Mission Memorial Auditorium in 2023. Standing next to him are
Honolulu Deputy Managing Director Krishna Jayaram, Joanne Tachibana,
president of the United Nations-Honolulu chapter;
Dr. King Peace Poem coordinator Melinda Gohn.


Kia’iokapo Smith Akana

Kia’iokapo Smith Akana was the 2023 state Hawaiian language winner
in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Poem Award.
Kala Ukulele’s president Mike Upton donated a ukulele as the prize.

Carden Academy

On Maui

Rebecca Czar, a 5th grader at the Carden Academy,
is the grand prize winner in the 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Poetry Awards on Maui.
Internationally renowned artist Davo (second from the left)
awarded her an original painting during the ceremonies at the
University of Hawaii-Maui student lounge. Standing next to the right of Davo is
Dr. King Peace Poem coordinator Melinda Gohn,
and Leon Bulosan, Gov. Josh Green’s representative on Maui


Sacred Hearts School

Twins Noah and Alex Paje, kindergartners at Sacred Hearts School,
receive certificates as finalists during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem Awards.
Standing next to them is Melinda Gohn, Dr. King Peace Poem coordinator;
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen,
and Leon Bulosan, the Maui representative to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.



Actor Bryant Neal

Actor Bryant Neal performs a passage of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream”
speech during Peace Poem awards ceremonies at the
University of Hawaii-Maui student lounge.
Neal is the founder of Jazz Maui, a nonprofit that brings
professional musicians to conduct jazz workshops in Maui schools.

Poet Gwen Gorg

On Hawaii Island (Big Island)

Big Island resident Poet Gwyn Gorg,  an advisor to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem
Contest, talks about the importance of peace and nonviolence
nonviolence in her congratulatory message to students, teachers, 
and parents at the University of Hawaii-Hilo.

Gov. David Ige

Several Big Island students were recognized as Golden Circle winners
during the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem Awards ceremonies in Hilo.

Gov. David Ige issued congratulatory certificates to them,
including Grand Prize winner Vladimir Fedoruk,
a 10th grader at Ka’u High School, whose family emigrated from Ukraine.


University of Hawaii-Hilo

Scores of parents and teachers gathered at the University of Hawaii-Hilo
to honor student finalists in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards
on the Big Island. Students came from as far as Ka’u to participate
in the 24th annual ceremonies 


Kapa’a Middle School

On Kauai

Lasaya Albite-Ruiz from Kapa’a Middle School is the 2023 grand prize
winner of the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry
Awards on Kauai. Standing next to her is awards coordinator Melinda Gohn,
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s representative Annette Anderson, and
former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, an advisor to the Dr. King awards.

The painting, a rendering of the Moon Landing, was donated by Internationally
renowned artist Davo.

Mayor JoAnn Yukimura.

Kauai finalists in the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards are recognized for their original poetry.  Also standing are Award coordinator Melinda Gohn, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s representative Annette Anderson, and former Kauai Mayor JoAnn Yukimura.

Lesson For Creating Peace Poems

To view the full page Use this link. |  Printable Page Here.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Peace Poem Volunteer Advisors

Melinda Gohn
Melinda Gohn: 
Peace Poem Director
Donna Whitford

                     Ayin Adams

The Rev. Ayin Adams is the co-founder
of the African Americans on Maui Association.


                   Donna Whitford

Donna Whitford, retired educator including a
Maui Complex Area Supervisor for the state
Department of Education, serves as a
Hawaiian language resource.


Braynt Neal Brent Andrews

              Bryant Neal 

Bryant Neal is a professional actor and
the founder of the nonprofit Jazz Maui
that sponsors educational music
workshops in Maui schools.


      Brent Andrews

Brent Andrews is a teacher at
Hanalei Elementary School on Kauai
and has been a Dr. King
Peace Poem Teacher Of The Year.
His lesson plan is on the Peace Poem website.


Joanne Tachibana Melanie Van der Tuin

          Joanne Tachibana

Joanne F. Tachibana is president of
the United Nations Association of
Hawaii - Honolulu Chapter, and secretary
of the Sun Yat-sen Hawaii Foundation.


  Melanie Van der Tuin

Melanie Van der Tuin, a recipient of
the James M. Vaughn Award for Poetry,
works as a volunteer coordinator for the
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem
Awards on Oahu.


JoAnn A Yukimura Gywn Gorg

            JoAnn A Yukimura

JoAnn Yukimura, a former Kauai mayor,
has served as a volunteer coordinator with
the Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem
Awards on Kauai.


            Gwyn Gorg

Gwyn Gorg is a former president of African
Americans on Maui Association and a member
of the Hawaii Writer’s Guild
and Hawaii Writer’s Alliance.


 The International Peace Poem and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poem
are non-government groups operating under the auspices of the
501 C-3 nonprofit Maui Peace Foundation Education Foundation
We have no staff and rely on donations. 
Please make donations to Maui Peace Education and mail them to: 
Peace Poem PO Box 1987, Kihei, Maui 96753 | (808) 875-0315

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