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History: Selected Biographies

Spark M. Matsunaga

While many Americans may be remembered and honored for their valor in combat, fewer are remembered for what they have done for peace. Spark M. Matsunaga (1916–90) is remembered for both. A decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army's all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, Matsunaga was a lifelong peacemaker as well as a soldier.

Matsunaga served the people of Hawaii as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 to 1977 and as a U.S. senator from 1977 until his death in 1990. Believing from his youth that peacemaking is as much an art as making war, and that it can be learned, he introduced legislation calling for the establishment of a "national academy of peace." In 1979, Matsunaga was named chair of the Commission on Proposals for the National Academy of Peace and Conflict Resolution. The U.S. Institute Peace Act of 1984 was based upon the commission's findings and recommendations. After the Institute's founding in 1984, the senator was a tireless supporter of its work and an invaluable guide, friend, and mentor to the Board of Directors and staff.

Jennings Randolph

"I am certain that our decision to establish the U.S. Institute of Peace will be regarded by those who came after us as one of the best investments in the future that our nation has ever made."—Senator Jennings Randolph

A staunch supporter of civil rights and author of the twenty-sixth amendment of the Constitution, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote, Jennings Randolph (1902–98) was a vigorous advocate for the founding of the United States Institute of Peace. Randolph was elected to the House of Representatives from West Virginia in 1932 and he served seven terms in that body. In 1946 he introduced legislation to establish a Department of Peace, with the goal of strengthening America's capacity to resolve and manage international conflicts by both military and nonmilitary means.

Randolph was elected to the Senate in 1958 and he continued working on educational programs designed to help build a more peaceful world. During this time, he played a key role in passage and enactment of the U.S. Institute of Peace Act in 1984. He retired from the Senate in 1985. As a tribute to his extraordinary legislative career and his work in establishing the Institute, the Jennings Randolph Program for International Peace was named in his honor. Awarding Senior Fellowships and Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowships, the Jennings Randolph program, since its founding, has enabled nearly 450 outstanding scholars, policymakers, journalists, and other professionals to conduct research on important issues concerning international conflict and peace.

Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin (1880–1973) is best known for being the first woman elected to Congress. Rankin was born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana. After several years of teaching and social work, she became active in the women's suffrage movement, actively working for the movement around the country. In 1916, she was elected to the House of Representatives from Montana and thus become the first woman in Congress--four years before the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution extended voting rights to all women.

A lifelong pacifist, Rankin joined fifty-five other members of the House in voting against the declaration of war in 1917, saying, "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war." As a member of Congress, Rankin worked for social, labor, and public health reform and supported women's rights. She continued to support those issues during the interwar period and also was active in anti-war organizations, including the Women's Peace Union and the National Council for the Prevention of War. True to her pacifist beliefs, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war against Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, later writing that when she cast the vote, she was fulfilling "the pledges I had made to the mothers and fathers of Montana" during her 1940 re-election campaign. She did not run again for re-election.

Following World War II, Rankin traveled extensively in India, where she was drawn to the views of Mohandas Gandhi. She remained active in peace advocacy, and late in her life she was a prominent opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The Institute's Jeanette Rankin Library Program is named in her honor.


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