“May Peace Prevail on Earth.” These are the words inscribed in English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew on the bright yellow Peace Pole outside of Clarke Hall. On Thursday, March 7, the dedication of the new Peace Pole was hosted by the Robert Nusbaum Center. Kelly Jackson, the associate director of the Robert Nusbaum Center, said, “We had always hoped the Peace Pole would anchor the Peace Garden.”
The new Peace Pole is dedicated to the peacemaker William “Bill” Sale, Jr., along with the William “Bill” Sale award to honor the memory of the longtime committee member. The new Peace Pole was made possible by the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia Peacemaking Committee. This pole is an internationally recognized symbol of hopes and dreams and is one of over 250,000 peace poles which are located in almost every country.
As Dr. Craig Wansink, the director of the Robert Nusbaum Center, said, “This year, the award is dedicated to enhancing our Peace Garden by replacing an aging Peace Pole because as I said to Jerry earlier, an aging decrepit, rotting, Peace Pole sends a bad sign.”
The previous Peace Pole had been a part of the VWU campus since 2005. It was planted and dedicated to Catharine Cookson, the previous director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, which is now known as the Robert Nusbaum Center. Cookson had brought together the campus and community by engaging in meaningful partnerships. She was the director from 1998 until her death in 2004, when a memorial was then established in her honor as the Peace Garden.
Dr. Jeffrey Toussaint, assistant professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, spoke at the dedication ceremony about sociological imagination and peace. Toussaint has researched how Black and White Americans conceptualize peace differently while offering tips on how to become a more effective peacemaker. The research he has done was inspired by a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
“I reached the the regrettable conclusion, that Black folks great stumbling block in stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Council, the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who was more devoted to order and to justice, who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice,” said Martin Luther King Jr. The quote was repeated by Toussaint at the ceremony.
From this quote Toussaint did a lot of thinking in regard to peace. His findings showed that most white Americans defined peace as an absence of war with a lack of threats from direct violence and Black Americans described and framed peace as the absence or end of direct structural and cultural violence.
“Peace is possible, and that change is possible. We just have to believe that hope is a discipline. And if we stick to it, then change is possible. Don’t give into cynicism,” said Toussaint.
Wansink and Jackson have shown interest in wanting to make an event regarding the Peace Pole an annual event as a way to bring our campus together in times where we need to show peace instead of violence.
Jackson would love to find a way to get the student body involved and to develop the area around by bringing everyone together no matter what background they are and to try to have an annual celebration of what it had become.
The event offered a time to reflect on the meaning of peace. The Peace Pole will be that center for our campus for years to come and for our community when we are in need of a happy thought to help us get through the tough times we may face.
“May Peace Prevail on Earth” is the main mantra that will be in our minds and hearts when students walk through the Peace Garden, and it will leave a mark on Virginia Wesleyan and will leave a mark in Virginia Beach.
By Mikayla Moscatelli