Bobbie and John Stewart celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in early October 2020. They live in Washington, DC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, where they served as conveners of the DC FOR chapter for three decades.
What inspired you to become a FOR member?
BOBBIE: When I got married to John in October 1970, we went often to Sign of Jonah, a gift shop that Community of Christ Lutheran Church owned. One day I picked up a copy of FELLOWSHIP magazine. That issue had the Fellowship’s Statement of Purpose. I had always known that I was pacifist, but thought only men could really be pacifist. But the Statement of Purpose said that anyone could be pacifist. I called to John, my husband, and that day both of us signed the Statement of Purpose.
JOHN: It was FOR’s response to the colonial war in Viet Nam and the cloud of lies used to justify it which drew me to the Fellowship, as well as to the American Friends Service Committee. When I was a student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, I was a part of the corps of cadets, on track to become an Air Force officer. But through the campus ministry I became aware of critical voices and other sources of reliable information. The result was that I left corps and expanded my interests outside my major concentration.
What is your proudest FOR moment?
BOBBIE: After I went to Germany in 1980, I decided to start a Fellowship of Reconciliation chapter in Washington, D.C. There had been an FOR chapter earlier, but it closed in the 1960s. The more recent chapter closed finally about ten years ago.
JOHN: My proudest moment with FOR was in 1985 when I joined FOR members from around the United States at the South African embassy to break the law protesting the racist apartheid policy of the regime in South Africa.
When did you find your peace witness most challenged and how did you respond?
BOBBIE: Several times I was arrested for civil disobedience, but only one time was jailed overnight, as it was too late for a trial. To my surprise, I discovered that the other women prisoners were all a lot like me, afraid for their children or what they would face when they were freed.
JOHN: This is the most difficult question. It was a cause of stress and division in my marriage when my wife decided to be arrested at the entrance of Draper Labs in Boston to protest involvement in the development of super accurate ICBM guidance systems. I believed she was behaving irresponsibly because (a) she had the only income, as I was a student living off of savings, (b) she had not informed her employer (except for another employee who was a housemate) and (c) the consequences were potentially great (several participants received jail sentences of two weeks or so). But I did support her in whatever way I could.
What is the most critical issue we’re facing right now?
BOBBIE: I think we are all facing global warming, a huge problem.
JOHN: The most critical issue we face is the fact that some people are scapegoating others for political gain.
What song, book, movie etc is inspiring you/giving you hope in this moment?
BOBBIE: Pete Seeger’s song “One Blue Sky Above Us” gives me hope.
JOHN: This is the easiest question and has a rather odd answer. But I love talking about it. In 2003 there was a Belgian musical called “de Drie Biggetjes” (the 3 Little Pigs), which told the story of the next generation, 21 years after the action of the story we all know. It begins with the practical pig, who built a house of stone, and her daughters in their tavern in the forest. The mother tells them to beware of the wolf and his three sons, who will surely try to catch and eat them. The next scene shows the wolf telling his sons about his crushing defeat, and the sons all pledge themselves to avenge his humiliation. But the drama ends with reconciliation as they actually fall in love and marrying. (This is too much for the father wolf who dies of a broken heart, though.) The whole musical used to be on YouTube, but now I can find only the beginning of the musical (in which they sing “a wolf is always bad”):