Cost of War Memorial

Cost of War

This is a big-impact activism idea designed to be impossible to miss or ignore on campus.  You'll create a giant display to show your campus the huge toll our interventionist foreign policy has taken on the lives of American soldiers and local civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's more way than one to build an eye-catching Cost of War Memorial (keep reading to learn now), but make sure it's unforgettable!

First, apply to participate in this project and get a FREE, custom activism kit:

Apply Now

Next, make your Cost of War Memorial. You've got a couple options here:

  1. Reuse your Visualize the Debt display. Repaint your Visualize the Debt clock plain white. Make sure the debt clock numbers are covered well. Use the numbers on YAL's Generation of War palmcards (which will be included in your activism kit) to represent the number of casualties of American soldiers and/or local civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you don't have a debt clock to recycle, here's a video of how to make one:

    For example, you may decide that 1 stick figure represents 1,000 civilian casualties, and then paint on 1,000 stick figures representing the 1,000,000 excess civilian deaths in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion. For example:


    Or, you could simply paint giant numbers to show the exact count of U.S., Iraqi, or Afghan deaths — or you can do both. It's up to you. For example:

  2. Create a flag display. If you don't have a debt clock to reuse, this may be an easier option. Purchase small American flags, plant them en masse on a lawn on campus, and make each represent a certain number of soldier or civilian deaths. For example:


  3. List the names of those who have died. Use this list to find the names of the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who are from your state and display a list of their names. Alongside that list, you might also wish to display a list of the children known to have been killed in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. For example:


Your casualties display will be too big to miss, so it's guaranteed to attract interest and questions from passersby. Explain the display to anyone who asks, and you'll have a chance to talk to interested students about our foreign policy — and just how much it needs to change.

As you talk to new people, be sure to tell them about your chapter an invite them to a follow-up event. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to make your Cost of War Memorial and follow-up event successful.

Pre-Event Preparation

Use this list to lay the groundwork for a successful Generation of War event:

  1. Reserve space. Even if you haven't decided what event you'll do yet, call your Student Activities Office TODAY and start the process of reserving meeting space and tabling spots. If your campus is in a warmer climate, try to put your display outside so it can be easily viewed from a distance — think big.

  2. Get the word out. Make sure your whole chapter is aware of your Generation of War project and ready to participate. Email your list serve, personally text and message your members, and discuss at prior meetings.

  3. Get in touch with your State Chair and Regional Director.  Find your Leadership Team representatives here and contact them today. We've had new leaders join us since last semester, so be sure your contacts are correct. Your Leadership Team reps can help you fine-tune your existing plans or even coordinate your activism with other nearby chapters.

  4. Organize an informational meeting. Before you start your activism, host a members-only meeting to plan your Generation of War project and assign roles and responsibilities to your current members.
  5. Assign an Events Director. If possible, assign an Events Director to head up this project. This person should be in charge of making everything run smoothly, especially tabling. The Events Director can learn more about tabling techniques here.

The more of this preparation you can do in advance of your Generation of War event, the more smoothly and effectively your foreign policy activism will go. You should be able to organize everything in the above list in just a few hours, all from the comfort of your computer chair.

Successful Tabling How-to

Here's how to pull a Cost of War Memorial event off at your school:

  1. Reserve tabling space with your Student Activities Office. Try to get a high traffic area during peak hours.
  2. Saturate your campus with flyers, posters, and chalked notices. Make your message unmissable.

    Download this eye-catching, customizable flyer to spread the news on campus: 

  3. Send press release to local papers and campus newspaper. Click here to learn how to get media attention and write a good press release.
  4. Get professors on your side. Many professors and department heads (especially in political science and other social sciences) will be excited to learn that you're hosting a foreign policy-focused events, even if they don't share your noninterventionist perspective. Ask them to help you out by allowing you to announce the event in class or assign extra credit to their classes for students who attend your follow-up event. Learn how to work with faculty to your advantage here.
  5. Don't forget to print out plenty of YAL sign-up sheets!  Download a sign-up sheet template here. Quick tip: Completely fill out the first two lines on every sign up sheet. No one wants to be the first to sign up, and if you completely fill out every field, it is more likely a student will do the same.
  6. Make sure you have a clean presentation and don't forget to bring candy and other other free stuff to give to interested students.

    Print this colorful "Generation of War" banner to make your table attractive and inviting:

    Table Banner 
  7. Run your display! Always keep a few chapter members on site who are friendly and ready to answer questions. 
  8. Always promote your follow-up event to anyone who stops by your table. Ask them to commit to attending. 

Your tabling project will make a big splash on campus, but it's not the main event! As you table, your goal is to get as many students as possible interested in your follow-up event.


Plan a Follow-up Event

Your tabling project will make a big splash on campus, but it's not the main event! As you table, your goal is to get as many students as possible interested in your follow-up event. Here are a few ideas to consider as you plan your follow-up event, which is designed to educate attendees about noninterventionist foreign policy:

Idea 1: Host a Speaker

Bringing speakers to your campus, if done properly, can attract large numbers of students and increase interest in your chapter. For this event, you'll want to host a noninterventionist foreign policy expert, like Ivan Eland, Bruce Fein, Glenn Greenwald, or even a principled professor from your campus. YAL offers an assortment of high quality, and free!, virtual speakers through YALU.

You may also find a good speaker by working with a veterans organization. Many of the fiercest opponents of unconstitutional and unwinnable wars in America are those who have experienced such wars firsthand: our veterans. Just as it does damage abroad, war also leaves many broken hearts and damaged lives on the home front. Your school may have a veterans group right on campus, or you can get in touch with Veterans for Peace to find a VFP chapter in your area!

Click here to learn how to host a speaker successfully, and get in touch with your Leadership Team representatives if you have difficulty selecting or contacting a speaker.

Idea 2: Screen a Movie

Want to educate students on noninterventionism? A movie screening may be the way to go. Find a noninterventionist documentary or even a feature film which raises serious questions about war. Depending on the movie you select, you may wish to hold a brief discussion session afterwards to ensure that the message got through. Click here to learn how to screen a movie successfully, and get in touch with your Leadership Team representatives if you have difficulty selecting a movie. Check out the YAL documentary and movie database or one of these movies with antiwar themes.

Idea 3: Organize a Debate

Instead of hosting just one speaker, consider having three or more! Organize a debate on campus between representatives of at least three political perspectives—conservative, libertarian, and liberal—and have them talk foreign policy. Learn how to organize a debate here, and get in touch with your Leadership Team representatives if you need any assistance.


Follow up with Your New Recruits

After your event is over, you're not done yet. Now is the time to turn your newly educated sign-ups and event attendees into dedicated YAL members.

Get in Touch

New recruits should hear from you the same day they sign up. Text or call the most promising new recruits that night. Tell them how excited you are and personally invite them to your next meeting. 

Additionally, be sure to upload all your members and new recruits to your chapter page by using the Members Management tool on your chapter page at This tool is an easy way to manage membership lists and mass message them through the website.

Have a Meeting

After communicating with your new contacts, your goal is to get them to attend an informational chapter meeting, giving you about 30 minutes to make the case for joining YAL. This is your chance to make a good impression and sustain your chapter's membership growth.

Click here to learn how to run an effective and persuasive informational meeting.

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