"Peace is possible ... it can begin simply, over a game of chess and a cup of tea."
Mattie J.T. Stepanek
July 17, 1990 - June 22, 2004
Mattie enjoyed public speaking and worked with Former President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter on several projects related to humanitarian efforts. Mattie's seventh and final book—Just Peace: A Message of Hope—written in collaboration with President Carter, outlines Mattie's "three choices for peace" concept. In this book, Mattie also discussed how conflict is natural because people are unique, but violence is an unnecessary and avoidable response to conflict.
Mattie J.T. Stepanek envisioned a world at peace. Through poetry, essays, and speeches, Mattie advocated that each person can choose peaceful attitudes and habits that lead to harmonious realities for individuals, and for the future or our world. Despite having a life-threatening neuromuscular disease that resulted in ongoing physical and emotional challenges, Mattie constantly sought to serve as "an ambassador of humanity." He believed that every person is a part of "the great mosaic of life," and that it is our privilege and responsibility to nurture, to offer, and to accept the unique gifts of being that grow from each person." Mattie
chose to live with optimism, resiliency, and an incredible sense of humor that grew from his personal life philosophy: "Remember to play after every storm!" He wanted to be remembered as "a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played." For more information about Mattie please visit: www.mattieonline.com.
About Mattie's Peace Garden
Mattie believed that people have the opportunity to create their own legacy—or "echo and silhouette of our life"—through the choices we make in each moment. After his death, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek King Farm Foundation was established as a nonprofit organization to continue spreading Mattie's vision of world peace through educational and recreational programs and activities. The citizens of Rockville, MD (where Mattie lived his final years) chose to name this 26-acre park in honor of Mattie, to celebrate his legacy and to offer the gift of his wisdom and philosophy to generations across time. The design of this Peace Garden is based on imagery Mattie used in his final book, Just Peace: A Message of Hope, and includes "mosaic gifts," "concentric circles of support," and "flowing rivers of kindness.
About Mattie's Park
Throughout the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park, quotes from Mattie's speeches and books can be found on benches and plaques. It is hoped that this space and the
essence of Mattie's wisdom will serve as a place of respite and rejuvenation for the many people who visit. More important, by experiencing this park it is hoped that visitors will embrace Mattie's messages of harmony and peace, carry these forward when leaving the park, and make choices that will create their own legacy for life and for our world.
Hear Mattie reading poetry samples:
1. Mattie's Heartsongs for children and all people.
2. Mattie's Heartsongs for our world and future
3. Excerpts from 2003 Peace and Poetry Speech (Music by Al Jewer & Andy Mitran)
4. Mattie's I AM/Shades of Life song (Performed by Billy Gilman with Mattie)
Mattie became a well-recognized guest on many news and talk shows such as Oprah, Larry King Live and Good Morning America. He first shared his concept of Heartsongs with Oprah Winfrey during a 2001 television appearance on her show. Six of Mattie's books contain this word in the title. Mattie said that "a Heartsong is a person's unique reason to be. It is the gift each person has to offer others in the world."
Mattie collaborated with many individuals and organizations as an advocate seeking to meet the basic needs of people around the world. In 2002, he worked with musician Nile Rodgers as the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) was launched. Now, WAFF continues to spread Mattie's message of hope and peace throughout the "Three Dot Dash" Global Teen Leadership Initiative and their annual international "Just Peace Summit."
Mattie served as the National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association from 2002 through 2004, working with Jerry Lewis and other celebrities, such as Larry King, to promote awareness and research for neuromuscular disease. "I did not choose to have a disability," Mattie said, "but I can choose to have an attitude of hope. I am proud to be one of Jerry's Kids."