Caroline Stevenson has dedicated most of her life to promoting peace through inclusive activism. Stevenson is a founder of the Pilgrimage for Peace, which brings together a diverse group of Arkansans for an interfaith peace walk and remembrance service to honor Arkansans killed by violence each year. A long-time volunteer at the Clinton Presidential Center, Caroline has provided housing to over fifteen Clinton School students.
Many of these students are international students for whom she hosts holiday meals and other social gatherings to ensure the international community feels welcome in Arkansas. Caroline is also a giver of her time, talent, and treasure to organizations such as WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions), Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice, and the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Born in El Paso, Texas to a large extended family, Caroline spent the first ten years of her life as a military daughter, changing bases several times. Until that is, after World War II ended and her father was sent abroad for a three-year assignment. The family then packed up and moved to the then small town of Fayetteville, Arkansas to be close to family. Caroline says she loved growing up in Fayetteville, attending high school and graduating from The University of Arkansas.
Once she graduated college, Caroline settled down to married life and began her family; raising three wonderful sons. Until 17 years later, divorce shattered her idyllic life, sent her on a quest to find a new identity, and led to a much more expansive outlook on life.
When her oldest son began exhibiting mental health issues at the age of 18, Caroline became involved with a small group of parents dealing with the same issues. Over the years, that small network of families grew into what is now known as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Arkansas chapter was the first statewide affiliate of that organization. Caroline served NAMI as Membership Chairperson and thus began her journey of activism.
In 1988, her son, Sandy, as well as 34 of his fellow Syracuse students coming home from a semester abroad in England became victims of terrorism when their PanAm flight was bombed over Scotland. Caroline states that this act of terrorism “clarified for me how hatred and violence at the personal level as well as at the national and international level begets more violence.”
Ms. Stevenson said, “I also realized how much of our resources are spent on weapons and militarism reduces our ability to address the real enemies of disease, poverty, lack of education and opportunities for all people.”
She believes it’s her faith and community that have gifted her the ability to question authority and to experience grief while still having hope for her own future as well as the future of humankind. Circumstances and grief may have set her back, but they also shaped Caroline into the wonderful humanitarian she is today.
“I’ve had a great life, filled with opportunities to learn, grow, and reinvent myself as circumstances changed…I am one grateful woman.” – Caroline Stevenson