What is the largest building in our country? If you're thinking the Sears tower, you're close. The Sears tower is the tallest, not the largest. The building with the most floor space is the Pentagon, headquarters of our country's Department of Defense. Six and a half million square feet in the building.
Did you know that the U.S has about 6% of the world's population, but actually sells about 40% of the world's weapons? A few years ago forty-six nations were involved in warfare. Thirty-six of these nations got their weapons for the U.S.
Our Department of Defense employs thousands of accountants to oversee a budget of over 600 billion dollars. Our annual military budget is more than that of all the other nations of the world combined!
If our building for the Department of Defense is our biggest, how does our building for the Department of Peace compare. What's that? You say that there is no Department of Peace? That means there is no building or personnel dedicated to working for peace. Nobody assigned to study and promote peace. No budget and no accountants for peace. Isn't that the problem?
Psychology 101 tells us, "Thought precedes action." First we think, and then we do. That means that if we think war, eventually we do war. History has shown us that if nations study war, train for war, build weapons for, buy supplies for war, eventually we get - war. Thought precedes action.
I also believe the opposite is true. If we think peace, we will get peace, -- peaceful policies, and peaceful actions.
So I would strongly suggest that our country seriously consider establishing a Department of Peace. That would give us personnel (hopefully thousands!) whose job it would be to think peace, study peace, plan for peace, budget for peace, train others for peace, and come up with policies for peace.
What would a Department of Peace do? Here are my suggestions.
Laughter. When I was young and a fight would break out among us kids at home, my father would step in. And within five minutes he would have us laughing. He had a knack for it. No one would get hurt. And we would settle down and be at peace. Victor Borge said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between people." So what if, instead of bombs and guns, the U.S. provided thousands of comedians, clowns, jugglers, magicians - all those kind of people who are good at making people laugh. When tensions would arise between nations and they find themselves on the brink of war, we would send in a brigade of comedians. People who laugh together can't fight. You can't hold a shaking belly with clinched fists.
Fun. I like to picture this situation in Sudan or other countries where there's been a lot of fighting in recent years. What if both sides were to run out of bullets? And what if nobody would sell them any more bullets? The soldiers would start getting bored, just sitting around with nothing to do. Next, imagine that we send over planes to airdrop thousands and thousands of Frisbees! With nothing else to do, I imagine both sides would eventually start tossing Frisbees, and enjoying each other. Hey, why not? All people like to have a little fun.
What if the U.S. supplied, not 40% of the world's weapons, but 80% of the world's toys and games? Imagine America supplying the world with Frisbees and roller blades, soccer balls and basketballs, and coaches too. And all of a sudden you have the whole world playing together. I'll bet if we asked each American family to donate some extra toys, we could supply the whole world with tons and tons of fun. People could volunteer to teach games and to coach teams. And if the children of different nations start playing together when they are young, they aren't going to want to fight when they get older. Play is another way to peace.
Food. I had a beautiful Polish grandmother who only spoke one English word to me. "Eat, eat," she would tell me. I was a skinny kid. She ran a farm and cultivated a large garden, and no grandchild of hers was ever going to be hungry.
If I were head of the UN I would put someone like her in charge of feeding the world's starving population. If it were up to her, there would be no kid anywhere going to bed hungry. She'd see to that. And they would have clean drinking water, too.
To help solve the problem of world hunger, why not get advice from the best farmers on how to grow food, and apply the skills from the best cooks (e.g. my grandmother) on how to prepare it. Sitting down to a good meal has been a time-tested method of bringing people together. "An empty stomach is not a good political advisor." (Einstein).
When people sit around the same table, are nourished by wholesome food, and enjoy good conversation, it would be difficult to get up from the table and start fighting. In fact, it would be stupid. Instead you would hear them say, "Hey, have some more soup. How was your day?"
Health. Did you know that there are about 3,200 cities in India? And over 70% of them don't have any sewage treatment whatever. Forget about the 18,000 accountants at the Pentagon. Why not send 18,000 plumbers to India and give the population there some decent sanitation systems? We could do it. The people of India (and many countries like it) would be very grateful, because they would be much healthier.
In some countries in Africa, the average life expectancy is less than fifty-years. Our new Department of Peace would send divisions of doctors and dentists to assure that basic health needs are met. Nobody wouldn't think of fighting the people who helped make them healthier.
Music. In our world there are many hundreds of spoken languages. Nobody understands them all. But we all understand tears. We all can grasp a smile. We all experience love and fear, hope and heartache. Human beings around the world share basic human emotions. And there is one universal "language" by which we express these feelings. That is the universal language of music and dance. So in my Department of Peace, instead of military advisors, I would have troops of musicians, singers, dancers, orchestras, and music teachers. Their job would be to bring people together in song.
The Chinese philosopher Mensius said, "If the king loves music, there is little wrong in the land." When toes are tapping and voices are harmonizing, who wants to stop and fight.
Remember that commercial, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.?" I believe it can be done.
Education. In the country of Nigeria, 50% of the people can't read or write. Afghanistan, 30%. Our new Department of Peace could send forth regiments of teachers to developing nations.
Seneca said, "One day in the life of the learned is worth more than the whole life of the ignorant." How rich would the lives be of those whose minds are developed to their full potential.
Art. What a beautiful world it would be if we shared our artists, architects, poets and photographers. Here I quote a former president, John Kennedy. "When power narrows the areas of a man's or woman's concern, poetry reminds them of the richness and diversity of human existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses." (Oct. 26, 1963)
John Dunn's poetry still reminds us that "no (nation) is an island...all are part of the main". To accomplish world peace, it must begin first in our own homes and in our own back yards. Among the gifts we need to give each other are laughter, fun, food, health, music, education and art. Then let us spread the news that peace is possible in our own country, in our world, and in our time. If we think it, we can do it.