By Teree Bergman
When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors expressed the interesting idea that scholars should stop studying the causes of war. He suggested that conflicts occur all the time and that the natural state is war. He proposed that we should be studying the causes of peace, as that is the less common situation.
Paul Harris expressed a similar view in a recorded interview in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1945: “The way to war is a well-paved highway and the way to peace is still a wilderness.”
While Rotary’s number one objective rightly continues to be on polio eradication, the inception of the Rotary Peace Centers program may be the initiative that secures Rotary’s role in the world. Rotary has a long history of promoting peace, and Rotary Peace Fellowships are the embodiment of this long-term interest. In 1923, Paul Harris offered an opinion as to the real mission of Rotary.
“Is there anything more potent than man’s impulse to hate? I think that there surely is and that it is man’s impulse to love. What have we been advertising throughout the centuries? We have been advertising war. The pages of history reek with it. In the days of my childhood, no education was considered well begun until hatred of alien races had been burned into one’s mind. It was surely wonderful advertising and done just in the nick of time. The child mind is a delicate film, wonderfully impressionable. Love is mightier than hate. Give it one half the advertising that hate has had, and there will be no more war.”
The Rotary interest in achieving peace has continued throughout its 111-year history. As past RI President Frank Devlyn said in 2006, “In Rotary we have always practiced and have an ongoing policy of promoting Better Understanding and Peace.”
Rotary was instrumental in the formation of the United Nations and has continued that collaboration for 70 years. Rotary holds regular peace symposia and forums throughout the world.
The Rotary Peace Centers program that Rotary created in 2002 offers great promise for the future, and it is worthy of our support. These peace fellows are the best and the brightest, and they choose to put their talents to work in the study of peace. Your financial gift to the Rotary Peace Centers make you a part of this great effort to promote nonviolent solutions to problems that would otherwise be decided by conflict.
About the author: Teree Bergman is a member of the Rotary Club of Tucson Sunrise, Arizona, a past district governor, and an assistant Regional Rotary Foundation coordinator for Zone 26.