Making Peace Cultures Happen
By Mitch Bogen
At the Ikeda Center’s first public event of 2010, held on March 6, more than 80 people came out to learn about Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen, the latest book from the Center’s Dialogue Path Press. The event celebrated the inspiring examples of the book’s coauthors, Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda, who both have demonstrated – each for many decades now – that the best way to help peace cultures blossom is to create the conditions for peace with daily dedication in every aspect of one’s life.
Introducing a Peace Builder
Professor Emerita in Sociology at Dartmouth College and a devout Quaker, Dr. Boulding is the author of seminal books exploring what she called “the hidden side of history,” chronicling the contributions to peacemaking of women and other groups too often ignored in our history books. A great friend of the Ikeda Center, she was awarded its first Global Citizen Award in 1995 and also co-organized the Center’s “Cultures of Peace” conference series in 1999. She is the second woman to publish an English-language dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda, the other being Hazel Henderson (Planetary Citizenship, 2004).
In his talk, Russell Boulding (right) reflected on his life growing up in what he called “a caring Quaker community” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan. His father, the esteemed economist and social visionary Kenneth Boulding, helped found the nation’s first center for research on conflict resolution there. “It was only years later,” recalled Mr. Boulding, “that I became aware of how intentional my mother was in creating a family and community that would encourage in its children the qualities of independence, creativity, and a commitment to making the world a better place.” The importance of intentionality would return, as well, as a theme in the other presenters’ reflections.
Transformations and Dialogues
He also expressed appreciation for Daisaku Ikeda’s appendix to the book, “Peace and Human Security: A Buddhist Perspective for the Twenty-first Century” (a speech he delivered in 1995 at the East-West Center, Honolulu). In it, Ikeda describes three transformations essential for creating peace in our world:
“I anticipate seeing these three transformations come about in my lifetime,” Mr. Boulding added, emphasizing that Mr. Ikeda’s view matches his mother’s.
Virginia Benson followed with reflections that focused on the imperative – and the art – of dialogue. She began by quoting Daisaku Ikeda’s observation that the choice to engage in dialogue “is itself the triumph of peace and of humanity.” She continued by outlining the key characteristics of Ikeda’s approach to his dialogue with Boulding:
In fact, said Benson, throughout Into Full Flower, Ikeda “seems to be asking himself all the time: What can I learn from Dr. Boulding that will help people, including myself, to live lives as valuable as hers?”
Focus and Determination
In response, Ikeda revealed how he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis when young and been told by doctors that he would not live to see thirty: “So I decided to live life to the fullest. … Every day of my youth was a battle waged in the face of death. But I won out and achieved my goals.” Benson said that these examples “strengthen my own resolve to create maximum meaning and value in my life at each moment.”
Mary Lee Morrison spoke next, sharing insights based on her experience as Boulding’s biographer. Complementing Benson’s comments, she said that Dr. Boulding’s “intentionality to make the world better was infectious to many of us.” She illustrated the source of this intentionality with a brief anecdote about Boulding, who was born in Norway and moved to the United States at the age of three.
Achievements Large and Small
Morrison went on to catalog the extent of Boulding’s accomplishments. It was clear that few persons in the twentieth century did more than Boulding to champion women as key contributors to the creation of a better world, nor did many do as much to actually organize people in the cause of peace.
She was much more than a great achiever, though. A family friend once noted, said Morrison, “that Elise could be talking one minute with high level U.N. officials and in the next, stoop to tie a child’s shoes.” A “self-described homemaker,” Dr. Boulding considered her mother and husband to be her greatest influences. She also claimed that the foundation for her work as an academic grew out of her experience “listening to my [own] and other kids.” Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that one of Morrison’s fondest memories of their relationship is the talk they shared “over a pot of delicious home-made lentil soup” at Boulding’s apartment on the day of their first meeting, fourteen years ago now.
To Fullest Bloom
Richard Yoshimachi, Ikeda Center president and executive director, offered opening and closing remarks that shed light on Daisaku Ikeda’s great respect for Dr. Boulding and her work. Movingly, he read from an unpublished poem that Mr. Ikeda wrote as a testimonial to Dr. Boulding prior to the start of the dialogue that would become Into Full Flower. The concluding stanza held special resonance for the day:
The afternoon was emceed by Center events manager Kevin Maher. He drew out key ideas from the speakers’ talks and moderated a whole-group Q & A session that allowed presenters to offer further insights into the lives and ideas of Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda – dedicated peacemakers in the truest, deepest sense of the word.
You can read some of Elise Boulding's essays and talks at our Thinkers page.
Go here for an interview with Mary Lee Morrison
Learn more about Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen!
The Ikeda Center