About 20 former Peace Corps members from around the country gathered outside the historic Sunnyside School at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds on Friday, Aug. 13, to hold a Peace Pole dedication ceremony.
All of the former members at the event served in Uruguay from the years 1965 to 1967, and still get together from time to time.
“We’re from all different states in the country,” said Toni Kilkenny-Williams, a former member who now lives in California. “Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Washington, Connecticut. . .”
As former Peace Corps member John Eggers lowered the hollow, white Peace Pole over a wooden post, he described the message of the monument. The pole reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in English, Ojibwe, Norwegian and Spanish, with each translation displayed vertically on the square pole’s four sides.
Former Peace Corps member John Eggers describes the languages displayed on the Peace Pole during a ceremony on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, at the Beltrami County Fair. (Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer)
The message, often referred to as a “peace prayer,” stems back to 1976, when the ideals of Japanese philosopher Masahisa Goi began to gain widespread support. People began placing Goi’s message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” on posts to help bring his message to the public eye, which is where the idea of the Peace Pole originated.
Today, Peace Poles are known as internationally recognized symbols of peace. It’s estimated that more than 250,000 Peace Poles exist all over the world, spanning across every country, and dedicated in various locations as monuments of hope.
“One of the reasons I went (into the Peace Corps) was that I heard President Kennedy on his campaign trail tell about this thing of the future — the Peace Corps,” said former member Kathy Eggers (Uruguary 1965-67) on why she chose to join the Peace Corps. “When I heard that, I thought ‘I want to do that when I graduate.’”
“Best experience I’ve ever had in my life,” she remarked. “It was amazing.”