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A Million Copies Made: Visioning a New Declaration of World Citizenship

I don't know why Ed McCurdy chose the line "a million copies made" for his circa 1950 peace anthem, "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream".

Nor do I know why John Denver especially liked the song (a 1971 rendition performed by him on the U.S. Capitol steps is 'front and center' on our Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP ) home page.)

All I know is that I heard Lynn Elling lead us in singing the song back in the spring of 2007; and that the lyric "A million copies made" has stuck with me.

Who is this Lynn Elling? And what does he have to do with peace and justice?

Plenty.

As a young LST (Landing Ship Tank) officer in WWII, Lynn Elling saw the horrors of War closeup in the South Pacific.

After the war he entered the insurance and financial planning business, becoming very successful in the profession.

Assorted experiences, not the least of which were WWII, and opportunities to meet with people like Thor Heyerdahl (Kon Tiki) and others, led to Lynn's life long passion to build a culture of Peace and World Citizenship. His enduring monument is World Citizen, Inc. (www.peacesites.org). World Citizen is a member of MAP.

Lynn's passion for peace culminated in a remarkable achievement in the spring of 1971 when 26 prominent leaders, Minnesota Republicans and Democrats, and including then-UN Secretary General U Thant, signed a declaration of World Citizenship whose major proviso recognized
"the sovereign right of our citizens to declare that their citizenship responsibilities extend beyond our state and nation. We hereby join with other concerned people of the world in a declaration that we share in this world responsibility and that our citizens are in this sense citizens of the world. We pledge our efforts as world citizens to the establishment of permanent peace based on just world law and to the use of world resources in the service of man and not for his destruction."
(click on http://www.mapm.org/amillion.htm for a photo of the entire declaration, which includes the signatures of all its very prominent signers , as well as Lynn's current proposal, and photos of Lynn from the time of WWII and Korea.)

Thirty-six years have passed since the remarkable declaration of 1971 was signed during a time of war and division in the United States.

Lynn Elling's passion for a world at peace has never ebbed, and he is asking us now to revisit what happened then, and bring it into the present day.

In 1971, the Vietnam War was raging on with no end in sight. For those old enough to remember, it was a time of deep division in this country. American boys and girls were dying by the thousands in southeast Asia, as were millions of fellow world citizens in southeast Asian countries.

Fast forward to 2007.

As so often happens, after a flurry of attention the remarkable 1971 declaration was relegated to archives, its immense signficance unnoticed by later generations.

Lynn Elling never forgot the 1971 declaration and in the spring of this year put it back on the table with a proposed update to fit the present day. Lynn is grateful to Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, who prepared the current proposal.

Today, of course, we are confronted by circumstances even more compelling and troubling than visited the U.S. and the world in 1971.

In 1971 there was a certain bi-partisan civility and mutual respect; now our politicians have largely embraced the "us versus them" philosophy, almost literally in public combat against each other, and past political civility and mutual respect are distant and vague and even naive memories. Winning and losing have to too great an extent seized the present day.

In 1971, the Vietnam War had already raged on as a real war for about as long as the current so-called "War on Terror". But, then, the military draft and the very real possibility of dying over there, was for young people a looming and ever-present possibility.

Today war is almost an abstract reality for many of us, something that seems to have no apparent negative consequences for us, mostly affecting people we'll never see, with fewer of 'our own' dying in places far away, no military draft facing young people, our war financed on a national credit card for our grandchildren to pay.

We can imagine that today's war has no direct consequences for us, even while we are bankrupting ourselves morally and financially, and isolating ourselves politically.

Lynn Elling, founder of World Citizen, Inc, deserves immense credit and admiration for not only his accomplishment 'back then', but for putting the issue back on the table today.

When Lynn secured his last signature on the 1971 declaration, achieving mastery in the space race was still a priority. Today, our very survival as human beings is rooted on what is happening on our own planet in all ways: human relationships, resource depletion, increasing inequities between peoples, climate change...the list goes on and on. Getting to the moon was, then, still a priority. Today's priority must be right here on the sphere we call home - the earth. We are part of the global community; isolation and domination are no longer options.

I leave the MAP presidency in two months, at the end of December, 2007.

I have committed to Lynn that I will do whatever I can to carry his noble initiative forward into the future. I might say also that the example of my good friend former Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen also motivates me. Gov. Andersen, who passed on in 1994, and who Lynn Elling considered a mentor, would be pleased to see this initiative going forward.

Thanks, Lynn, for all you've done.

You ask "Where do we go from here with the new proposed declaration?" That remains to be determined. Your ideas are solicited: dick_bernard@msn.com.

To all of you, stay tuned as we "retool and refuel" Lynn's dream and take it, as he likes to say, "to the stratosphere".

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 5, 2007 7:17 PM.

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