Peace Marcher Is Hoping to Persuade the World to Follow in Her Steps

Times Staff Writer

Lynnda Strong's shoes are made for walking for peace.

In the last two years, she has crossed the United States on foot and hiked through the Soviet Union with peace groups, seeking to enlist support for nuclear disarmament along the way.

Now, the 30-year-old woman from the city of Orange is preparing for another cross-country trek for peace this summer, involving 200 Americans and 200 Soviets.

"When I walk for peace, I talk with people along the way to get them to realize that they, as individual citizens, have an obligation--and an opportunity--to convince government leaders that the only way to avoid nuclear war is through nuclear disarmament," she said.

Today, Strong is a paid worker for the Orange County Alliance for Survival, a Santa Ana-based peace group that lobbies for nuclear disarmament.

But the graduate of Cal State Long Beach said that until January, 1986, she knew little about the peace movement. Her introduction came when she was working at a sporting goods store in Orange.

Customers asking for camping gear said they were going to walk across the continent in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.

Strong, who had a passion for hiking, camping and the outdoors, decided to go along, more for the adventure, she now acknowledges, than out of any political zeal.

"I didn't know a lot about nuclear issues," Strong said. "But I had reached a point where I needed to do something with my life."

So she joined 23 people from Orange County and 400 other Americans on the odyssey. The marchers spent 260 days walking 3,700 miles from Los Angeles to Washington.

Along the way, people occasionally would hurl insults at them, she recalled.

"Though most of the response was positive, there were those people who called us Commies. They'd say: 'I bet you couldn't do the same thing in Russia.' "

Strong said she and other marchers decided to take up the challenge by walking through the Soviet Union the following year.

"We thought it would be a good way to get a good idea of what the Soviet people were like, especially since they were supposed to be our enemies," she said.

Strong raised $2,800 from family and friends to pay for her trip. She joined 200 Americans and an equal number of Soviets traveling 450 miles by foot and bus from Leningrad to Moscow for a month last summer to promote the cause of peace.

"By our going to Russia, we were able to show the people of the Soviet Union how we, as Americans, felt about peace and disarmament," she said.

She returned from the Soviet Union convinced that the average Soviet citizen agreed.

"Everywhere we went, people said they wanted peace," Strong said. "They were obsessed by the fact that they had lost 20 million people in World War II. . . . So many of the people had lost husbands or brothers that they said they wanted nothing like that to happen again in their country."

This summer, Strong plans to join 400 Americans and Soviets as they walk and take buses and planes across the United States. The American-Soviet Walk will begin June 14 in Washington and end July 18 in San Francisco.

In the meantime, Strong said, she will continue to work at information tables for the Alliance for Survival at community events throughout Orange County.

She concedes that she has her work cut out for her in conservative Orange County.

"Its not easy. But I think its important for people, no matter how they feel about different issues, to openly discuss their views," Strong said.

"As long as people keep talking, there's hope that they'll change."

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