LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin at B.D. Gullett Elementary School.
That was the message at a ceremony held Friday morning to re-dedicate the peace pole that has stood outside the school since shortly after its inception in 2007.
The six-sided pole, donated by members of the East Manatee Rotary Club, bears the message "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in 12 different languages.
"It's just to remind them of what their role is, their mission as peacemakers," said Gullett Elementary principal Kathy Hayes. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the United Nations' International Day of Peace, observed Sept. 21.
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As part of the ceremony, several students spoke the words "may peace prevail on Earth" in their native languages, including Chinese, French, Thai, Swedish and Hebrew.
Four fifth-graders were invited up to tell the student body about how they are peacemakers.
"I always share with my friends and never act like a bully," said Jahmal Barnes.
"I show respect to everyone at school no matter how they look or act," said Owen Yanevich. "Peace starts with a smile."
Shea Murphy, 10, said it's important for fifth-graders, as the oldest students at the school, to set an example for the younger kids "so they grow up to be like us and not bad."
Rachel Gonzalez, 10, said it was "really nerve wracking" to speak in front of everyone, but that she wanted to deliver her message of how she is a peacemaker "so that other kids know what it's like to be older and mature, and so nobody gets their feelings hurt."
The students also sang "Teaching Peace" at the direction of music teacher Tim Hamand and displayed art projects, including the word "peace" written in different languages on decorated paper.
East Manatee RotaryClub president and ceremony guest Rich Zang said it's important to connect children with a larger purpose in the world.
"This takes students out of their environment of local," Zang said. "They're talking about peace around the world. This is part of their growing up."
School guidance counselor Monica Rice offered an inspiring message to the students.
"Not a day goes by that we don't hear about people making unkind actions, hurtful actions," she told them. "You are the future of our world."
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.