Posted on Feb 07, 2024

At our February 7 in-person meeting, past District Governor Jim Halderman laid out a vision or challenge that links Rotary’s 4-way test, Rotary’s Seven Areas of Focus, and the Eight Pillars of Peace of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) as a framework for individual Rotarians and the Rotary organization to work toward settling conflict and spreading hope and peace. 

He started by contrasting “What is Peace?” with the common approach, “Why We Fight”.  He suggests that we are all looking for a sense of security, the second of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (behind Food and Shelter).  He quoted from Robert Gates (President George W Bush’s Secretary of Defense) suggesting that we need to strengthen our capacity to use soft power (diplomacy, communication, anything but guns) even though we, as a nation, spend 80x more on hard power than on soft power.  Soft power is any concrete action that individuals and nations take to resolve differences peacefully – to address issues like poverty, inequality, ethnic tensions, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources – all issues that are addressed by Rotary’s seven Areas of Focus.  Why we fight does nothing to address these issues. We need to deal with conflict in a positive manner, an approach almost codified in the Rotary 4-Way Test. 
What truly brings us security?  The IEP, looking at characteristics of peaceful nations, has defined eight pillars of peace: a well-functioning government; equal distribution of resources; free flow of information; good relations with neighbors; high levels of human capital; acceptance of rights of others; low levels of corruption; and good business environment.  Each of these pillars may be directly linked to one or more of the ideals of the 4-Way Test as well as the actions elucidated by Rotary’s 7 Areas of Focus.  Actions driven by these ideals occur within a framework of attitudes (how you feel about government and your sense of security), institutions (organizations like Rotary working locally or globally to impact the entire environment within which conflict may arise), and structures (how the governance and populace within which conflict may arise are structured). Thus, peace is a numbers game involving 2, 4, 7 and 8:  2 = security and hope; 4 = the 4-Way Test; 7 = Rotary’s Seven Areas of Focus; 8 = IEP’s 8 Pillars of Peace. 
Mr. Halderman suggests that the reality of peace can only follow the belief that peace is possible – belief determines action and action determines reality.  The actions that we, in Rotary, have always done, whether locally or globally, should continue but should be approached from the attitude that they contribute to creating an ecosystem of peace.  Peace doesn’t happen to us, it happens by us.  Historically, peace is associated with great advancements of society and greater economic success.  Quoting a Foreign Service professional, “Common ground is more powerful than military power.” 
Hope for a more peaceful future must accompany a sense of security, but hope is an active approach to life, not a passive wish.  Hope is the belief that your actions matter and you can make a difference.  All of our Rotary projects (whether local, e.g., Food Bank, or global, e.g., attacking polio) are steps toward peace.  But hope requires belief and a vision.  Quoting R.I. President McInally, “Peace must be waged persistently and bravely”.  Mr. Halderman suggests that when major change comes from people, governments will follow – a bottom-up approach – and that’s the hope of Rotary. 
Within the framework of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, peace does not occur in a vacuum.  How do you develop the trust that is necessary to develop peace?  Mr. Halderman suggests that, within the 4-Way Test, DEI issues are addressed in at least the last three lines. 
How does appeasement fit into the idea of waging peace?  Are we guilty if we stand aside?  Mr. Halderman guesses that some 10 – 15% of us are leaders and we all need to speak up when we hear or see something negative. 
How does his club operate in creating peace fellows?  Although his club has lost momentum in this area, in the past the committee on Peace Fellows has talked with each of the clubs in his district, soliciting peace fellow applicants, guiding the applicants through the process, and supporting the applicants through the entire experience.  He commented that, for Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, peace was his mantra. 
Is there the possibility of having a US Department of Peace?  Would it do any good?  There is a Peace Alliance which has had a bill on the floor of Congress (H.R. 1111 entered 02/21/2023) for creating a Department of Peace but it has never gone anywhere and is rarely heard about.  If you are interested, contact your congressman to encourage bringing this bill forward. 
Referring to Braver Angels and the fact that politicians can’t seem to talk with each other, what can Rotary do in the political realm?  Mr. Halderman referred to an anti-polarization program with an effort to learn to talk without letting emotion rule the message. 
Are there nations that are non-violent in a world where every nation says it is non-violent?  Which nation is farthest along to peace?  There is a study that ranked 156 nations with respect to their positive and negative approaches to peace.  The highest ranked nations were the Nordic countries, New Zealand, and Bhutan.  The US was ranked high in the positive attitudes/actions for peace but low in the negative attitudes/actions for peace.