Toward a Culture of Peace Commission for Ashland, Oregon (USA)


by Eric Sirotkin, Ashland Culture of Peace Initiative

[Editor’s note: The following remarks were submitted on February 2 by Eric Sirotkin on behalf of the the Ashland Culture of Peace Initiative to the City Council Study Group on a City of Ashland Culture of Peace Commission.]


Scene from Ashland proposal video

If you could have one chance to speak to the world’s most powerful political body, what would you say? When Václav Havel, the former political prisoner and then President Poet/playwright of the Czech Republic, got his invitation to speak to a joint session of the United States Congress he said that “the salvation of the this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility.”

He told people preoccupied with getting reelected that they should “put morality ahead of politics, science, and economics” and that “the only genuine core of all our actions–if they are to be moral–is responsibility.”

Responsibility is “that fundamental point from which all identity grows” Thus, Havel declares, “I am responsible for the state of the world,” and he calls it a “responsibility not only to the world but also ‘for the world,’ as though I myself were to be judged for how the world turns out.”


In 1999 the United States along with the International Community approved the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace which defined the culture of peace as a goal much broader than the traditional idea of peace as the absence of war or violence. It called upon individuals and government to take actions to build and expand a culture of peace.

What is a culture of peace? In your discussions today you may want to share what it means to you. But also respect that it’s not the same for everyone and it’s not always easily translated. For us it has meant many things, but primarily it is a “way of life” that solves problems through dialogue and works to balance and expand respectful relations, even between people who disagree.

It is an idea whose time has come. Over 75 million people signed the Manifesto 2000, committing themselves to cultivate a culture of peace in daily life.

You don’t hear about these efforts in the traditional media.

But on the Transition to A Culture of Peace Blog website (http://decade-culture-of-, it mirrors the words of Vaclav Havel to Congress some decades before:

“…over the past few decades, the consciousness is growing that we must cultivate and create a culture of peace to replace the culture of war. If you believe, as I do, that the ultimate force in world history is the consciousness of people, then you can see why I believe that the world is on the verge of a great transformation. What is still lacking, however, is an institutional framework outside of the nation-state to make it possible.”

This is where we believe that you all play an essential and historic part.

(Continued into discussion)


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As a group of concerned citizens we have been engaged in a process that not only is intended to institute a Culture of Peace Commission in Ashland, but also has been meant to model it. We know we could go to the voters and get this approved, but as we told you in our packet we want to work with you and use our collective wisdom to come up with something that works for everyone.

In our individual meetings with you over the past month we have worked hard to resist charging forward, learning to apply the very principles inherent in the culture of peace to our own process. We’ve listened deeply and reflected individually and as a group, on your suggestions and your wise input gleaned from years of working within the City. It has convinced us that we all want the same thing.


Few disagree that we want to be embody a culture of peace. Adrienne Rich once said: “We all go to sleep dreaming of a common language.”

In many ways Ashland has key elements of a culture of peace:

Hundreds gathering each year for the International Day of Peace Feast for Peace;

Annual commemorations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that question aggression and strongly urge us to remember something greater;

Mediation school Programs that help children look at conflict differently; • Courses in Compassionate Listening, Restorative Justice Circles;

• Local programs produced like Immense Possibilities that help us to listen
and build a more connected community;

Since 1998 Ashland has been part of the Global Mayors for Peace 6,538 member cities in 160 countries & regions;

We are as Mayor Stromberg said in his State of the City address a city in the “quality of life business”…it’s in our” lifeblood. “ A community that institutionalizes a culture of peace becomes one that, in the Mayor’s words “attracts students and their

families regionally and nationally to this extraordinary and celebrated community.” We have listened to the important goals set out by the Mayor and all of you over the past months

A city that attracts young people

b) A city Council that in reality is working every day to build a peaceful culture;

c) The complications and limitations of the current commission process.
So we are more and more convinced from our discussions with you that we all want the same thing.

So what do we do?

We wish to hold off on a vote on any permanent Culture Peace Commission or in holding an election to implement it and follow some of your advice.

#1 – FORM AN INDEPENDENT ASHLAND CULTURE OF PEACE COMMISSION: This entity formulated outside of City Government would choose representatives from all sectors of the community – Like the Peace Wheel – Education Business Culture Science Environment Religion
Law Habitat

It would hopefully have a Liaison from the City Council and I understand that Pam Marsh has been willing to serve in such a capacity.

. …more.