By Marios Antoniou, a 2008-10 Rotary Peace Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
It was an honor, and a pleasure, to be invited to address the attendees of the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu. These people travelled from across the world to the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to share their thoughts and actions for peace, in the spirit of Aloha.
Three days went by fast, perhaps too fast! I did not have enough time to catch up with old friends that I got to see again, or get to know my new friends better. Nevertheless, as always, at the end of a Rotary International event, I find myself with an even greater circle of friends from around the world. I find myself to be more knowledgeable about global issues, more informed about how close we are to eradicating Polio and more aware of Rotary led local and global projects that seek to improve the lives of people around the world!
Beyond the inspiring content of the forum, I was touched by another source of inspiration: Pearl Harbor. President Tanaka chose wisely, as a wise man he is. Berlin – Oahu – Hiroshima. When I stood over the silenced resting body of the Arizona, absorbing the experience, the images from the documentaries, the place, the smell of the oil on the surface of the water and the names on the marble, my thoughts drifted away.
I remembered standing at Thermopylae, where Leonidas and his soldiers fought and bravely died. I remembered other places where the land and the water were colored red by the blood of men and women. I thought of my home country, Cyprus, as well.
What are these monuments for? They are constructs built to honor the dead, yes. They teach the new generations about the bravery of their ancestors who gave their lives for the idea of the nation and for the lives of its future generations. I certainly agree that this is a noble thing to do.
However, I do believe that, the primary role of these places and these monuments should be to teach these new generations why this should ‘never’ happen again. Let your thought carry you away when you stand in Hiroshima, facing yet another monument.