Oregon United Methodist plans park to honor U.S. peacemakers
June 15, 2006
By Paul Jeffrey*
EUGENE, Ore. (UMNS) — Peacemakers have too often been ignored by
history books in the United States, so John Attig is determined to give
them more attention. The retired United Methodist schoolteacher wants to
build a monument to U.S. citizens who have been awarded the Nobel Peace
In three years of organizing, Attig has acquired a two-acre site
along the Willamette River in a Eugene city park and is busy raising
pledges to finance the almost half-million dollar peace park. It will
have a monument with a list of the 19 individuals and three
organizations from the United States that have been awarded the prize.
“We all know the military heroes of our country’s history, but
most of our peacemakers aren’t even to be found in the indices of our
history books,” Attig said. “We need to remember and learn from our
nation’s peacemakers, some of whom are fading into obscurity.”
Attig’s congregation was an early sponsor of the project.
“Monuments are usually constructed to honor warriors or
conquerors, but our faith tells us that people who work for peace need
to be valued and honored,” said the Rev. Debbie Pitney, senior pastor at
Eugene’s First United Methodist Church.
Besides the physical monument, Attig is working with other
teachers to design a multimedia curriculum unit for schools that would
teach students about U.S. laureates and encourage them to be peacemakers
“If we’re going to have peace in the world, it’s going to take
all kinds of people to do it. And when you look at the list of U.S.
laureates, you realize that you don’t have to be a famous celebrity or a
politician or wealthy or even holy. You just need to promote fraternity
among nations and reduce militarism,” he said.
While the list of laureates does include some famous names, like
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson, it also includes
lesser-known activists, such as Emily Balch, a founder of the Women’s
League for Peace and Freedom; John Mott, an ecumenical leader who
improved conditions in prisoner of war camps during both World Wars; and
Jody Williams, a volunteer activist who initiated the International
Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Attig points out that there’s no red or blue political tint to
the laureate list; the winners include nine Republicans and seven
The project isn’t without controversy, however, given that
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was awarded the prize in 1973 for his
participation in ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
“Henry Kissinger is the cross I bear. His presence on the list of
laureates has made it more difficult to raise money and obtain
“I wonder if we’ll need to make the reinforced concrete even thicker,” Attig said.
“But if you start picking away at the list based on your
particular viewpoint, you won’t have many people left. You’ll end up
with an award for moral perfection rather than for peacemaking. George
Marshall was a warrior, but he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in
1953 because of the Marshall Plan. I’m personally convinced that
Kissinger is a war criminal, but I’m going to honor him for his
peacemaking. You need to cut these guys in to make peace a reality,” he
Attig began raising funds for the project a year ago, and spends
many of his days courting potential donors. “If I had all the money, we
could start construction tomorrow,” he said.
Instead, he said he realistically hopes to have the necessary
support within a year. Yet he acknowledged that sponsors of another
public gathering place in Eugene, the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza,
took four years to raise the necessary support. “It will take as long as
it takes, but we’ll build it,” he said.
Further information about the project can be found at www.nobelpeacemonument.org.
*Jeffrey, currently based in Eugene, Ore., is a United Methodist missionary and senior correspondent for Response Magazine.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.