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Establish a Peace Site, promote Peace

Monday, July 1st, 2013
A Peace Site dedication at St. Paul's Monastery, St. Paul, June, 2009

A Peace Site dedication at St. Paul’s Monastery, St. Paul, June, 2009

My friend, Lynn Elling, founder of World Citizen and co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize Festival, now part of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, has a favorite Gandhi saying which he recites often: “If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children”. The entire quote is here.

For Mr. Elling, promotion of Peace Sites has been an important part of his near life-long history as witness for Peace.

He first learned of the concept “Peace Site” in the early 1980s. I met Mr. Elling and learned of Peace Sites only six years ago, and in many assorted contacts since then, I agree that they are a wonderful community building venture wherever a group chooses to dedicate one, with direct and potentially lasting positive impact on children.

Here are a few notes about Peace Sites, and how anyone can create a Peace Site at school, place of worship, organization, etc:

HISTORY: Best as I can determine, the idea of formal Peace Sites originated in New Jersey in 1982. Here is a column from New York Times at the time: Peace Sites NJ 1982001. Mr. Elling, of Minneapolis MN, learned of the idea and set about replicating it in Minnesota in 1988. Characteristic for him, he engaged all out, to the extent that there are now hundreds of Peace Sites which trace their history back to the local idea of this man.

World Citizens list of Peace Sites as known today can be viewed here.

BECOMING A PEACE SITE: In my six years of knowledge of Peace Sites, I have witnessed and/or learned about many Peace Site Dedications in various settings.

A Peace Site dedication program at Great River School, St. Paul MN, November, 2012.

A Peace Site dedication program at Great River School, St. Paul MN, November, 2012.

There is no “formula” for a Peace Site dedication. There are ideas for what a Peace Site celebration might entail, but in my experience the best Peace Site dedications are home grown through a process in which community members elect the kind of dedication they wish to have.

Often times these will include dedication of a Peace Pole; sometimes of a standard model, sometimes they are a unique creation of a local artist or group of artists.

New Eagle Scout Eric Lusardi, at left, brought a New Peace Site and personally designed Peace Pole to life in New Richmond WI in the summer of 2012.  Melvin Giles, center, helps dedicate the Peace Site on the International Day of Peace Sep 21, 2012.

New Eagle Scout Eric Lusardi, at left, brought a New Peace Site and personally designed Peace Pole to life in New Richmond WI in the summer of 2012. Melvin Giles, center, helps dedicate the Peace Site on the International Day of Peace Sep 21, 2012.

But the key aspect of a successful Peace Site is that a local committee create their own idea and program, and involve the greater community in the Dedication ceremony.

REDEDICATION: One of the remediable problems I have seen with Peace Sites is that, once created, they simply exist and are not rededicated on a regular basis. A great deal of effort is expended to do a Dedication, but no attention is paid to rededicating the Peace Site on a regular (as yearly) basis.

What can too easily happen is that the great esprit of the moment can quickly erode, and if there is no conscious effort on an ongoing basis, before too long, people forget that they are a peace site, or the people who originated the idea in the first place move, or in other ways the institutional memory disappears, and with it the whole idea of a peace site.

It is important for existing Peace Sites to make a commitment to rededicate in some fashion each year.

There is no “cookbook” for Peace Sites, but they do kindle a candle of Peace in the hearts and minds of children and adults wherever they appear.

Consider the possibility of a Peace Site where you live.

Past posts specifically about Peace Sites are here and here.

Some lucky bird may take up residence in this ceramic birdhouse which will grace the top of the completed peace pole when the Peace Site at Washburn High School in south Minneapolis is dedicated in the Fall of 2013..

Some lucky bird may take up residence in this ceramic birdhouse which will grace the top of the completed peace pole when the Peace Site at Washburn High School in south Minneapolis is dedicated in the Fall of 2013..

Rededication at Bloomington MN Jefferson High School May 3, 2013.  The school has an annual rededication as a Peace Site, and it is a major annual event.

Rededication at Bloomington MN Jefferson High School May 3, 2013. The school has an annual rededication as a Peace Site, and it is a major annual event.

#625 – Dick Bernard: Eric Lusardi’s Peace Pole and Garden, and the International Day of Peace

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Today is the annual International Day of Peace. Last night in an e-mail came a three minute video that helped set the stage for today. There are numerous sites emphasizing Peace, including May Peace Prevail on Earth, my own World Citizen, and others.

I knew part of my day today would be delightful, witnessing the public dedication of a Peace Pole and Peace Garden at the Community Commons in New Richmond WI. This was the culmination of an Eagle Scout project for near-15 year old Eric Lusardi, a young man who represents the kind of ideals our world could use a lot more of.

There isn’t much that I can say that would add to a few snapshots taken at the dedication. The New Richmond Peace Pole is unique among hundreds of thousands of Peace Poles around the globe, and it was unique because that is how Eric wanted it to be.

Here are some photos (click on them to enlarge).

The New Richmond WI Peace Pole, with globe affixed to the peak. This pole was designed by, and largely hand-made by the Lusardi family and friends, emphasizing local languages and materials.

The mayor of New Richmond, Fred Horne, reads the Proclamation for International Day of Peace. At his left is Cheryl Emerson, Director of the Commons

Eric Lusardi talks about his Peace Pole and Peace Garden Project

A representative of the New Richmond VFW Post 10818 spoke about the project.

The Dedication Plaque for the Peace Garden/Peace Pole. The plaque honors all who serve their community in any capacity

Melvin Giles helps dedicate the Peace Pole

Melvin Giles and Eric Lusardi and some of the group at the dedication

The group expresses unity with each other for the symbolism of the Peace Pole: a symbol of working for Peace.

A shy young lady became enamored by the Peace Pole.

The family joins the little girl at the Peace Pole.

During the events I had an opportunity to make some comments, and articulated my understanding of how the International Day of Peace came to be and evolved over the last 31 years. I gave a lot of credit to a young Englishman who in the later 1990s campaigned to have Peace Day set at September 21, rather than ‘floating’ as it had been in the earlier years. The last ‘floating’ Peace Day was, tragically, September 11, 2001, when participants at the UN in New York witnessed the Twin Towers being hit.

Afterwards a man with an English accent came up to me and asked more about the young man, who I remembered to be Jeremy. I thought the website was, and indeed that is the website, if you wish more information. (The young man’s name: Jeremy Gilley).

As I concluded my remarks, I mentioned seeing a brilliant rainbow when I was nearing the western Wisconsin town – one of the most brilliant rainbows I’ve ever seen. Of course, Rainbows are nearly impossible to capture on film, I was driving and I was running a little late as it was, so you’ll simply have to imagine that rainbow. That rainbow seemed a little bit more than simply a coincidence to me. Something wonderful was happening in this little community.

Mission over, I took my cold and my sore back to the car and drove home.

I felt really, really good inside.

Eric Lusardi was still in the community center, getting his Eagle Scout rank, the 108th granted by his troop.

He is richly deserving, and to me he represents the best of our future. His family and fellow citizens of New Richmond WI gave me cause for hope.

#624 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #46 – 4000 days at War in Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Someone has calculated that today, September 19, 2012, is the 4000th day of the beginning of the War in Afghanistan: the day the bombing began, October 7, 2001.

Except for isolated demonstrations, including one this afternoon from 5-6 p.m. at the Lake Street bridge in Minneapolis, there will be little attention paid to this anniversary.

One of the few newspaper articles I have kept for posterity is one from October 8, 2001: Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001

This is a short article, simply describing the results of a poll of Americans at the time about going to War. It is worth reading. If you don’t care to open it: succinctly, 94% of Americans approved of the bombing of Afghanistan for whatever reasons they might have had for the action.

For a politician to be against the war in 2001 would have been almost certain political suicide.

I was one of the 6% who, had I been asked, would have disapproved of the bombing in 2001.

My opinion wasn’t based on being anti-war, then, though it was that singular event that launched my subsequent activist life.

As a military veteran myself, in the Army at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in a unit that was mobilized for possible action, I was not altruistic.

Very simply, on that dark day in 2001, I could see absolutely no long term good coming out of attacking a country, Afghanistan, whose only ‘sin’ was harboring an isolated bunch of terrorists who were soon to become enshrined in our political conversation as “al Qaeda” (which, to my knowledge, is simply an Arabic term, al-qa’ida: “the base”).

October 8, 2001, was a very lonely time to be against War, I can attest.

Only about one of twenty Americans agreed with me, and most thought there was going to be a long war, and were okay with the idea and (I suppose) thought that we’d “win” something or other.

Not long after, of course, our sights shifted to Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 9-11-01.

Of course, our futile exercise in supposedly attempting to eliminate evil in the world is succeeding only in slowly destroying ourselves.

“The Base” has to be pleased.

I probably won’t change anybodies mind, but take a bit of time today to consider a few numbers related to that number 4000 (my apologies for any math errors):

2977 – the number of deaths on 9-11-01 (including citizens of over 90 countries, but excluding the 19 hijackers, none of whom were Afghan)
2686 – the number of days of War on President George W. Bush’s watch
1314 – the number of days of War on President Barack Obama’s watch

Nov. 9, 2009 – the approximate date where we’d been at war for 2977 days: one day of war per 9-11-01 casualty.

There is no prospect of ever “winning” the war against terrorism, or Afghanistan, yet we persist in our fantasy for all the assorted reasons we might have. There is no still sane politician who will argue that we must end war now, or ever.

The fault is not the politicians (unless we extend the definition of “politician” to include ourselves, each and every one of us.)

There is no truer example of the truth of Gandhi’s words “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”.

Start where you’re at, as an individual, today, now.

A good place to begin to focus is this Friday, September 21, the International Day of Peace. There are numerous links. Here is the one that is at the top of the google search list.

Personally, I’ll be over in New Richmond WI, witnessing 14 year old Eric Lusardi’s becoming an Eagle Scout (the public ceremony is at 4:00 p.m., New Richmond Community Commons). Part of the ceremony will be dedication of a Peace Site.

Eric exemplifies Gandhi, and I think he’s an exemplary example of youth for our future as a people and a planet.

For some personal inspiration for Peace, visit A Million Copies, here.

Dick Bernard: A graduation and a commencement.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

September 9, 2012, was a remarkable day for me. It has taken till December 10, 2012, to complete this brief post.

There were two events on September 9, one immediately following the other. That day I was to meet a young man I’d never met before, 15-year old Eric Lusardi, over in New Richmond Wisconsin.
The same afternoon, a little later, was the Memorial Service for Rev. Verlyn Smith, 85, a man I cannot say I knew well, but for whom I had huge respect.

I knew Verlyn for the same reason I was about to meet Eric Lusardi: both were about the task of making the world a better place.

Eric was about to become an Eagle Scout, and his Eagle Project was to develop a Peace Garden at the local community center in his town of New Richmond WI. This was his idea, and as we all learned at the actual ceremony on September 21, he had enrolled the community in his efforts.

A main service project of his was to help the community effort called Empty Bowls, an initiative on-going since 2007.

On September 9, Eric seemed most proud to tell Melvin Giles and myself about Empty Bowls.

(click to enlarge)

Melvin Giles with the Lusardi family, September 9, 2012

Eric and Mark Lusardi explain the Empty Bowls Project September 9, 2012

In one of many ways yet to come, Eric was involved in his own commencement into the rest of his life.

I left New Richmond early, to get back to Minneapolis for the Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance” for the man I knew as Verlyn.

Verlyn was a South Dakota farm kid from west of Sioux Falls, a child of the Great Depression. He knew the hard times from experience.

The unseen markers of life took him to the Lutheran ministry, and within that ministry to the Vietnam era college ministry in California which is where, he said, he became acquainted with the Peace movement. He last ministered in the same Church at which he was buried, and he was a quiet but giant advocate for peace and justice in our world. Here is an excellent description of his life and work: Verlyn Smith001

He would have loved to meet Eric in person.

Verlyn Smith (second from right, in tan coat) one of honorees at the Nov. 5, 2010, Hawkinson Foundation* annual awards dinner.

I’m not sure what Verlyn’s hopes, dreams and aspirations were when he turned 15 in 1942, on the South Dakota prairies.

What is certain is that he added to the value of our world by his presence in the next 70 years.

It is the best that we can do, to make the world a better place by our having been part of it.

Congratulations, Eric, as your life continues, and commences.

And farewell, Verlyn**.

* – The Hawkinson Foundation website is here.

** – It is important to note, also, that one of Eric’s grandfathers passed on in the summer of 2012. Life continues.