STOCKTON, Calif. — Each year, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on Sept. 21. It's all about strengthening the ideals of peace.
The United Nations General Assembly established International Day of Peace in 1981. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.
This year's theme for International Day of Peace is "End Racism. Build Peace." The United Nations is encouraging people to recognize the day by supporting movements for equality and human rights, speaking out against hate speech and promoting anti-racism through education.
"Racism continues to poison institutions, social structures and everyday life in every society," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. "It continues to be a driver of persistent inequality, and it continues to deny people their fundamental human rights."
The International Day of Peace was observed at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Wednesday. The program began with the traditional Peace Bell Ceremony in the Peace Garden. Following that, a Youth Observance program was held in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.
More than 500 students interacted with the Secretary-General and high-profile artists and activists. The youth also presented projects that illustrated the action they've taken to combat racism and foster peace.
The International World Peace Rose Gardens also recognized International Day of Peace. It's a non profit organization on a mission "to advance peace and understanding amongst all the nations, cultures and religions of the world through the creation of rose gardens that become magnets for youth and community activities."
The World Peace Rose Gardens held a celebration at the University Park World Peace Rose Garden (UPWPRG) in Stockton. There, 12 students with Stockton Unified School District were recognized as winners of the organization's peace poem contest.
The World Peace Rose Gardens established the contest, also called the "Inspirational Messages of Peace" youth program, in 1996. Since then, more than 31,000 students around the world have participated in the program. That includes writing and entering a short peace poem.
Anthony Carrillo is a 7th grader at Pittman Charter School in Stockton. He was one of the 12 student winners. He read his poem during the event, defining peace, stating "What is peace? It does not mean being in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in our hearts."
This year's World Peace Rose Gardens celebration included guest speakers, such as Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden, and Community Leader Elbert Holman.
"We've heard it 100 times, the youth are our future," said Sandy Huber, director at International World Peace Rose Gardens. "Others can recognize this special day by taking a moment to themselves to reflect about what peace means to them, individually, and how they can become a more peaceful person and how that's going to affect the community around them."
Winning messages of peace are unveiled yearly at the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” World Peace Rose Garden in Atlanta, Southport Elementary School World Peace Rose Garden in West Sacramento and the University Park World Peace Rose Garden in Stockton.
45 winning messages of peace are in the State Capitol World Peace Rose Garden in Sacramento.