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ICC Address

ICC 2014 - Let's Camp for Peace

ICC 2014 Group Photo
Let's Camp for Peace 2014
Inaugural Address – 
John Jorgenson

At the end of every day in our summer camp, our campers and staff gather around the flagpole to lower flags and sing this song. With this Congress’ theme of “Let’s Camp for Peace”, the words of this song seem very appropriate:

Build the Road of Peace before us

Build it wide and build it long

Speed the slow, remind the eager

Help the weak and guide the strong

None shall push aside another

None shall let another fall

Stand together sister, brother

All for one and one for all

This Congress here is but one resting place along the long trail we have created together. The greatest gift is that there are so many of us from so many different places sitting together in common purpose. Some of us are coming from countries where we are just setting off on the journey to build the camp movement and others from countries where it is well established. There is help and leadership available to the one and motivation to lead available to the other. Together we can share, inspire, learn and teach Together we journey, creating a wide and long road – all for one and one for all.

In 1987, camp leaders in North America thought that it might be a good idea to take a national meeting and send out invitations to other countries to participate. When these international delegates arrived, they discovered that they were a part of a world of camping that was unbelievably interesting and important. The ICF butterfly took off at that Conference. Chuck Ackenbom was one of the organizers of that event and we are grateful that is here with us today.

In 1994, ICF began its first partnership with national organizations and committees to help create and support a series of International Camping Congresses. That first Congress in Toronto, Canada (20 years ago this year!) began a strong tradition of growth and development in different parts of the world and in the ICF itself.

And now, here we are in Turkey. The Butterfly has landed and flourished in so many places over these years. We have accomplished great things and we can now find camp, camping and the camp feeling in so many lands, in so many languages and in so many cultures.

Let’s camp for peace… We are on the threshold of something big; something special; something important. A big dream! – no question!. Too big? – not at all!

There are those who feel that we ought to design and run our camps more like the real world from which our campers and leader and come. We must train them to cope in challenging times and adverse conditions. We cannot do that in a place that is an escape from the real world. Camp should not be an oasis away but a reflection of the real world. We should show them how to be tough, resilient, strong…

In that ‘real’ world there are many, many challenges. In this room and in our organization, there are camping leaders who come from countries whose governments cannot or will not talk to one another. Together in this room and in our organization there camping leaders from countries with governments who struggle with extreme social and health issues, problems of child poverty, challenges related to agriculture and food production. Do we really want camps to reflect the real world? Perhaps the real world should be more like camps. In our camps, we can teach campers to be tough, resilient, strong…but in a different way… in a way that is compassionate, caring and filled with positive role models.

If governments operated like camp, there would be much more understanding, problem solving and conflict resolution. If governments went to camp, there would be much more healthy activity, much more sharing, much more collective work to improve conditions for everyone.

The ICF is growing and together we are all growing stronger, The ICF has met all this week and together we have made some plans. We must keep planning together and we need everyone’s help to do so.

God may laugh at us (as he has with our plans for good weather here in Turkey) but we know that eventually the sun will come forth and eventually our plans will come to reality.

If our hearts are willing and our arms are strong then we will continue to achieve great things together. At our 2014 Board meetings, ICF has renewed its commitment to the following things:

  • Spread ICF services and programs around the world (ICDC, other specialized and customized trainings, research and research results, recognition for camping leadership everywhere, support for emerging camp communities).
  • Take on the work of re-writing our Constitution, By-Laws and Procedures. This has become necessary because now, after 25 years, we serve a much larger and more diverse membership. We will require a special general meeting for all ICF members explain these changes and to participate in the process.
  • Create more room for more volunteers and leadership within ICF – not simply at the Board level but more importantly, at the committee, special project, event and regional level. Everyone is welcome to participate in building this camping community.
  • Reach out to forge more strategic partnerships with like-minded and like-hearted organizations who can support us in word and deed. These are organizations with whom we share common objectives. These organizations can help us bring our message to a wider world of youth development so that more people can find a home in the ICF. ICF can become a more significant voice in the area of international youth development, global citizenship and environmental education.
  • Create many leaders. Pete Seeger was a songwriter and a song leader who loved camping. He reminded us that we should “Be wary of great leaders. Hope for many, many small leaders.” Remember that we are working today with tomorrow`s leaders. Every one of them can become leaders in their own way. We must provide them with the very best tools – tools for their hands, tools for their heart and tools for their head, so that the world they build is right for their community, their country and their world.
  • Convey a key message through our camps: ‘that we are not alone’ and ‘we do not stand alone’. Our brothers and sisters who are in our country and in other countries – deserve and need camp experiences and opportunities as well.  As global citizens, with associated rights and responsibilities, we must not only plant seeds of friendship and understanding – we must water and nurture those seeds to help make them strong.

Mother Teresa reminded us that, in the end, even the ocean is made up of drops. Each drop, each effort, each act of kindness moves us to a place where we can truly make a difference. We move closer to a place where the difference is enough to effect change.

What can we do? What can our camps do? What can our campers do?

By forgoing a meal at a camp in one country to better support a camp for children in another, we make a difference. By planting trees… By raising money… By connecting to a sister camp… by even thinking together about how we can become better, we make a difference… All these drops in the ocean create a ripple. A ripple becomes a wave and a wave carries to a distant shore.

At the end of the conference, however, we must remember that our most important connection is not with one another here. It is not with the leaders who work so hard on our behalf and it is not with the camps and campsites that we create each year. In fact, our most important connection - and the thing that is at the heart of everything we do, everything we create and every decision we make must be the children we serve. It is these children who deserve our attention, our effort and our love…

At a conference much like this one, a former ICF President, Jack Pearse jotted down some notes from a presenter. Those words developed into a song. That song matches the theme of this Congress as well as the Rainbow of Peace poem that I shared with you at the beginning of this piece. Let us carry all that we have learned here away to the children – and for the children.

Picture a world with a rainbow of peace

Arching in splendor above it

Each colour and hue blending perfectly true,

Surely we can’t help but love it.

What should we do to be sure, in each land,

That the rainbow of peace keeps on glowing

The richer we’ll be if we walk hand in hand,

While our love and our friendship keep growing.


Now is the time and this is the place,

And we are the folks who believe it

Let’s give and forgive for as long as we live

We know that we all can achieve it

For the children we’ll sing, to the children we’ll bring

A challenge to show us the way.

Let’s open our eyes, for our destiny lies

Through the children, we’ll reach a new day


And when we give our hearts to others

When we start to do our share

When we’re sisters and brothers

Then we’ll know we really care

–  for the children

Camping Fellowship
Nov, 16, 2014
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