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2008 Recipient

O'Brien Photo

The Peace Studies Program (PSP) awarded the 2008 Harrop and Ruth Freeman Prize to Cornell graduating senior Perry O'Brien.

Perry O'Brien was a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Government. He joined the Army shortly before 9/11, and was deployed to Afghanistan as a medic with the 82nd Airborne Division in January of 2003. Upon returning to the United States he was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector in 2004. He is the founder of and was a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He co-founded the Central New York chapter of IVAW upon arriving at Cornell in the fall of 2005. He had participated in every IVAW national anti-war mobilization, as well as several speaking tours, trainings, marches, and acts of civil disobedience. In 2006 he joined the IVAW Strategy Team, and in 2007 became the their representative to the Steering Committee of United Peace and Justice, the nation?s largest anti-war coalition.

His work in spring 2008 focused on "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan," a campaign to bring veterans to Washington, DC to testify about immoral and illegal military policies. Also included would be recorded civilian testimony collected in Iraq by journalists using a questionnaire O'Brien designed. As Testimonial Team Leader for Winter Soldier, he was responsible for coordinating the collection, verification, and presentation of all veteran and civilian testimony, and for providing legal and mental health support for testifiers.

He also co-authored a book for 10-14 year-olds entitled After Gandhi: 100 Years of Nonviolent Resistance, which will be published in 2009. It profiles important leaders and movements in nonviolence, encouraging young people to get involved with peaceful forms of activism.

After graduation from Cornell he moved to New York City to work on institutionalization of Winter Soldier within IVAW, creating a permanent online database of testimony and evidence collected from combat veterans and Iraqi and Afghani civilians. Written and recorded testimony, as well as photographic and video evidence, would be made available to scholars, journalists, and human rights organizations.