September 15, 2021

Rev. Robert Moore Honored as Leader In Quest for Peace

40 YEARS OF PEACEMAKING: The Rev. Robert Moore (center in blue shirt), surrounded by Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) colleagues, received a surprise visit on September 8 from Princeton Councilmember David Cohen (right), who presented him with a Council resolution honoring Moore’s 40 years as executive director of CFPA and declaring September 8 as “Rev. Robert Moore Day” in Princeton. 

By Donald Gilpin

Last Wednesday, September 8, the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) for the past 40 years, was working in his Witherspoon Street office when Princeton Councilmember David Cohen, along with five of Moore’s CFPA colleagues, paid him a surprise visit.

September 8, 2021 is “Reverend Robert Moore Day” in Princeton, Cohen announced, as he read out loud a Princeton Town Council Municipal Resolution in Moore’s honor. The resolution — citing Moore’s four decades of leadership in working with the CFPA to abolish nuclear weapons, end endless wars, prevent gun violence, and combat growing militarism and the climate crisis — was formally passed by the full Council at their Monday, September 13, meeting.

In September 1980 a group of Princeton-area faith leaders, concerned about the escalating nuclear arms race, founded what would become the CFPA, and on September 8 of the following year they hired Moore to lead the organization.

Under his leadership the CFPA has expanded to become a regional office serving central and south New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. It is one of the largest grassroots affiliates of National Peace Action, with over 7,500 member and supporting households.

“Rev. Bob Moore has been a superb team leader who has been a major factor in CFPA being widely recognized as one of the most respected and effective grassroots peace groups in the country,” said Irene Goldman, longtime organizational leader and CFPA board chair since 2004. “We are fortunate to have his leadership continue as he reaches his 40th anniversary as executive director.”

In a September 10 phone interview, Moore reflected on the accomplishments of the past 40 years and on the urgent work ahead. He spoke proudly of the CFPA’s reliance on “the classic means of democracy,” mobilizing people to make their voices heard in a variety of ways.

“Democracy is achingly slow a lot of times, but for those people who will stay with an ongoing, organized effort like the one we offer through the CFPA, if you hang in, over time democracy does work,” he said. “You just have to be really persistent — and smart.”

He emphasized the importance of the organization’s faith-based foundation. “One of our organization’s strengths is its growth out of concern in the faith community — all different faiths,” he said. “By having that kind of base, we had staying power. If you have a base in the faith community you have a base in institutions that are lasting, institutions with moral authority.”

Making a Difference

Moore had many examples of instances in the history of the past 40 years where the work of the CFPA had made a significant impact. He highlighted three, all of which are ongoing CFPA projects: the nuclear freeze campaign of the 1980s, New Jersey’s assault weapons ban in the 1990s, and the anti-war movement and the peace voter campaign that the CFPA initiated in 1995 and continues to expand on.

The culmination of Moore’s early nuclear freeze efforts came in June of 1982, soon after he joined the CFPA, when he organized and sent a chartered peace train with 1,400 supporters to the New York City demonstrations in support of a nuclear weapons freeze. With a total of one million attendees, it was the largest demonstration in U.S. history.

In November of that year he led the promotion of a nuclear weapons freeze statewide referendum which was supported by two-thirds of New Jersey voters in the 1982 election. Moore led lobbying efforts in support of anti-nuclear and peace legislation in New Jersey and Washington over the next years.

“All that grassroots activity put enough pressure on President Reagan so that he reversed his position of not even talking to the Soviets. He said he’d return to negotiations,” Moore noted. “Then Gorbachev came into power with perestroika, and by 1987 we had the first nuclear reduction treaty in history. It didn’t just freeze. It went further to reduce the nuclear arsenal. More than 2000 nuclear weapons were dismantled by that agreement.” 

Moore cited this agreement as an example of “how our participation in this movement really paid off, really got results, but it was messy along the way.” The momentum in opposition to nuclear weapons has continued, Moore explained, with about 85 percent fewer nuclear warheads today — about 12,000 or 13,000 as opposed to about 70,000 in the 1980s. He added, “Unfortunately that’s still overkill, but it’s fewer fuses that can be ignited.”

Other initiatives noted in the Council resolution and described by Moore included lobbying against gun violence to sustain the assault weapons ban in New Jersey; organizing protests and lobbying efforts against the Iraq War; supporting the Iran Nuclear Agreement of 2015; helping to pass more than 20 gun safety bills in New Jersey since 2010 through the Ceasefire NJ campaign; initiating the first in the nation Diplomacy, Not War campaign in 2012; and initiating the first in the nation No Wars, No Warming campaign in 2015.

From Hawk to Peacemaker

Moore described his transformation from hawk to peace advocate during his freshman year at Purdue University in 1968-69, after encountering a protest against Dow Chemical recruiters on campus. “In front of the recruiting booth there were students holding up the iconic blown up picture of a girl who was napalmed in Vietnam,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Something isn’t right here.’ So I began to look into it and do my research, and I talked to the campus minister and realized the truth and the facts, and I realized that my approach was totally off base.”

He continued, “I started college as a hawk, but by the end of the first semester, with my fellow students challenging me to find the truth and with the guidance of the campus ministry, I realized that peacemaking was something that I had totally missed in my upbringing in the church. It’s more than just a slogan. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ is what Jesus said.”

Moore became a campus minister during his sophomore year — his professional ministry goes back 51 years — and was active in anti-war and anti-hunger organizing. After college he went on to seminary. “So it’s been this deep-rooted sense of this as a sacred call to be peacemakers for many of us in the world of faith,” he said. “My whole life has been about nonviolence and peacemaking ever since the end of that first semester of my freshman year.”

Moore noted that he found “the exact right match in Princeton with the CFPA, “a great place to co-mingle the passions in my life: faith-based organizing towards peace and nuclear disarmament.”

Challenges Ahead

“I don’t intend to just coast now. There’s a lot to be done,” he added, citing “a lot of unfinished business on the global abolition of nuclear weapons,” the endless wars initiated through the militarization of the federal budget and U.S. foreign policy, and the “existential threat” of climate change.

“There are two things that threaten all life on earth: nuclear weapons and the climate crisis,” he said. “These are daunting challenges, but I’m hopeful.” He expressed optimism in seeing that the younger generation is passionate about the climate issue and that increasing numbers of Americans of both parties are speaking out against endless wars. 

“We’re building on momentum that’s already there, but we need to go much faster to get there in time,” he said. “We need a lot more expression of the will of the people, demanding this because our survival and the survival of the planet depends on tackling these things and succeeding.”

And now, in the first week of his 41st year on the job, the Rev. Robert Moore, along with the CFPA, will surely be leading those efforts.