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Lynn Elling: 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 that song (a 1971 rendition performed by him on the U.S. Capitol steps is 'front and center' at amillioncopies.info.)

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?


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

After the war Elling entered the insurance and financial planning business, becoming very successful in the profession. But early in his post-war career, he was discouraged and almost quit. At a critical point in his early professional life, a workshop leader, Maxwell Maltz (Psycho Cybernetics) unlocked the door to Lynn's future success. Maltz taught that if one could visualize a goal in technicolor, 3-dimensions and stereophonic sound, the goal could be achieved. Elling listened, and followed Maltz's advice, and it worked.

But Elling never forgot what he'd seen and experienced on that LST in the south Pacific in WWII.

Assorted experiences after WWII, including service in the Korean conflict and visiting Hiroshima in 1954, and opportunities to meet with and get to know people like Thor Heyerdahl (Kon Tiki), Norman Cousins, and many others, led to Lynn's life long passion to build a culture of Peace and World Citizenship. Mentors like Minneapolis business executive Stanley Platt and former Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen encouraged Lynn in his efforts.

His enduring monument is World Citizen, Inc. (www.peacesites.org). World Citizen is a member of Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP).

Lynn's passion for peace culminated in a remarkable achievement in the spring of 1971 when 26 prominent leaders, including all notable Minnesota Republicans and Democrats, and 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."

Coming as it did during the darkest times of the Vietnam War, the 1971 bi-partisan Declaration is remarkable. Similar declarations were entered into in several other states and many communities.

In 1971, the Vietnam War raged on. It was difficult for most Americans to visualize an end to the deadly conflict. For those old enough to remember, the late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of deep division in this country. American youth were dying by the thousands in southeast Asia, as were millions of fellow world citizens in southeast Asian countries.

(See http://www.amillioncopies.info for a photo of and more information about 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. Also accessible at the website is a 1972 film, "Man's Next Giant Leap", whose purpose was Peace Education.)

In 1982, Lynn founded World Citizen, Inc http://www.peacesites.org; and in 1994 he co-founded the Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Both still endure (the link to the Peace Prize Festival is accessible at peacesites.org.)

As so often happens, after a flurry of attention the remarkable 1971 declaration literally ended up in a closet, its immense significance unnoticed by later generations.

Lynn Elling never forgot the 1971 declaration and in the spring of 2007 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.

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 face-to-face, 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.

In a real sense we are playing a deadly video game. Additionally, we are beset with other potentially calamitous problems ignored at our peril. No longer can we pretend that our problems are confined to some other place far away, or even controllable by our own will. We are vulnerable in a way that we do not want to understand.

There has never been a greater need for world citizenship than there is 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. 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.

Lynn Elling deserves immense credit and admiration for not only his accomplishment in 1971, but for reigniting the issue for today's world.

Thanks, Lynn, for all you've done.

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".


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

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