In my 93 years on this planet, through times of trials and tribulations, I have witnessed one great transformation after another, supporting the enormous values of hope and creativity in producing tremendous achievements.
I saw the world recover from the terrible economic depression of the 1930s. I saw the League of Nations rise and fall – and the emergence of the United Nations with more strength than the League. I saw Europe torn by centuries of national antagonisms evolve to a European Union. I saw totalitarian regimes in Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, Asia, Africa and South America give way to governments more responsive to the needs of the people. I saw women attaining their rightful positions in many cultures. I saw the leaders of many religious organizations finally working together. I saw the development of a new world communications system through the Internet.
To serve the global community of the human family now evident all over the world, I advocate the creation of a Center for Humanity’s Future embodying hope and creativity on the largest possible scale. Such a Center should be a place of light and listening, a place of friendly explorations and encouragement for people to become even greater than they are now—a launching pad for good ideas from everywhere. It would enable us to travel into new dimensions; to open new paths before us; to dance forward into the future with high expectations, celebrating life with everlasting expansions, rising and traveling far and fast.
This would be a revival of a proposal endorsed by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1967 for an Annual Celebration of the Creative Powers of Humanity. That was a proposal I made in an article published in the Saturday Review, an American magazine edited by the late Norman Cousins.
I originally offered that proposal from ideas generated by my experience as a founding officer of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, led by Dr. Robert M. Hutchins. The Center was created in 1959 by the Fund for the Republic, an educational foundation established by the Ford Foundation to help uphold the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It had a major impact on the world’s horizons for 22 years. It helped to prevent a war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It fostered efforts to end the tragic conflict in Vietnam. It was a pioneer in the environmental movement. It shed light on the political and economic activities of corporations and labor unions. It sponsored discussions of the significant roles of religion in a free society. It called attention to the strength and weaknesses of the mass media. It published a model for a new American Constitution, designed to protect civil liberties, wipe out racism, and give legal foundations for human responsibilities. It brought together thousands of people in public dialogues and conferences in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Washington, Malta, and Geneva. It gave early warnings of the dangers developing in the nuclear age.
In my 16 years of participation in the Center’s work, I gained a strong appreciation of the values of unconditional love and global thinking. I heard the ideas of brilliant people from every field, voiced in open dialogues with all insights welcomed—the flashes of brilliance that came from atomic scientists, anthropologists, astronomers, biologists, philosophers, theologians, human rights advocates, bishops, novelists, poets, painters, labor leaders, Supreme Court Judges, Senators, governors, Congress members, economists, and explorers from all fields. I found that unconditional respect for persons from all cultures led to a tremendous joy in life.
On the Center staff, we planned meetings on science and world affairs, on the systematic study of revolutionary technology, on the prospects for creative democracy in the new nations that arose after the collapse of colonial empires, on the possible changes in the American character in an affluent society, and the complex connections between American problems and world problems.
The dangers presented by global warming and the atomic arms race have produced pessimistic views of humanity’s future. But I continue to believe that the creative powers of human beings, manifested in many ways in the 20th and 21st century, will lead human beings to new heights.
In my article for the Saturday Review, I advocated an Annual Report Celebrating the Greatness of Humanity, to be presented around the earth, revealing the glorious connections of human beings to the highest possibilities in the universe. It attracted the attention and support of former President Eisenhower and other leaders when it was first published forty years ago.
Eisenhower, who had commanded millions of men in battles that led to the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s forces, saw the terrible effects of war. He said that “people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than governments.” He declared: “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days, governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.”
I was delighted when Eisenhower expressed a strong interest in talking with me about my idea for a Global Celebration of Creativity, which could lead the human family into a recognition of the importance of human unity and unconditional love. Like Harry Truman, he wanted every human being to be freed from poverty and desperation. Mr. Truman told me in the White House that we must acknowledge the fundamental unity of the human family.
General Eisenhower said bluntly: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” I was taken to see him by Everett Clinchy, head of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He greeted me warmly, saying: “You’ve got a great idea here. It’s too big for me, Mr. Kelly. You should have taken it to my brother Milton, who has served as president of a great university. His endorsement would mean more than mine.” I had met Milton Eisenhower, who had been president of Kansas State University, and I knew that Milton was a fine man. I acknowledged that his approval would carry weight. But I said to Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I admire your humility, sir. But you have been elected President of our country twice, sir. I share Mr. Clinchy’s view that your endorsement, if you’ll make it publicly, might enable us to carry out this idea.”
We talked for an hour, and then General Eisenhower said: “You’ll hear from me in four or five days. You can use my letter publicly, if you wish.” Five days later, I received an envelope with five stars on it. In it was a one-page letter signed by General Eisenhower, expressing full support for my proposal.
I brought the letter from the former President to the attention of several Senators, and William Proxmire of Wisconsin introduced a proposal in Congress, advocating an Annual Report on Humanity’s Achievements to be sponsored each year by the Congress.
But Proxmire and the others who sponsored it were never able to get a majority in the Senate or the House endorsing it.
It is still my hope that Nobel Peace Prize winners will take it up—and make it a reality.
An annual report showing the cosmic connections of all human beings could help to prevent a nuclear war. Eisenhower grasped the revolutionary significance of nuclear weapons when he heard of the enormous impacts of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“In an instant many of the old concepts of war were swept away,” Eisenhower declared in his book, Crusade in Europe. “Even the bombed ruins of Germany suddenly seemed to provide but faint warning of what future war could mean to the people of the earth. I felt and hoped that this latest lesson, added to all the others that six years of unremitting war had brought to the world, would convince everyone everywhere that the employment of force in the international field had to be abjured…I gained increased hope that this development of what appeared to be the ultimate in destruction would drive men, in self-preservation, to find a way of eliminating war. Maybe it was only wishful thinking to believe that fear, universal fear, might possibly succeed where statesmanship and religion had not yet won success.”
Eisenhower felt strongly that the United Nations had to be supported by the United States in the nuclear age. He refused to endorse some of the devastating proposals made by his advisors on the use of hydrogen bombs and other extremely destructive weapons. He proposed that the enormous energies in atoms be used for peace, not war. Documents found by Stephen Ambrose, one of Eisenhower’s biographers, showed that Eisenhower rejected “the near-unanimous advice of the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA and the Sate Department to use atomic weapons to achieve a victory in Korea.
In his book entitled Eisenhower: The President, Ambrose wrote: “The truth was that Eisenhower realized that unlimited war in the nuclear age was unimaginable, and limited war was unwinnable. This was the most basic of his strategic insights.”
In my meeting with Eisenhower, I found that he shared the vision of humanity’s new situation, which led years later to the formation of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. David Krieger, Charles Jamison, Wallace Drew and I realized that a new kind of civilization had to be built and extensively supported by leaders all over the planet.
For 25 years we have participated in efforts to spread recognitions of the strategic insights of an American President who tried to get everyone to realize the costs of war and the possibilities of fostering an atmosphere in which human beings realize how glorious they are, how many gifts they have, how the future may unfold with beauty and unconditional love everywhere. We work daily, as Eisenhower did, to make that future glow upon our horizons.
We honor people who have made sacrifices to advance peace and justice. We have circulated the ideas and initiatives of educators, scientists, religious leaders, artists, and others who embody the noblest characteristics of men and women in every culture. Among them are Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Mairead Maguire of Ireland, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Carl Sagan, Paul Ehrlich, Yehudi Menuhin, Queen Noor of Jordan, Admiral Gene La Rocque, Senator Claiborne Pell, Jacques Cousteau, Linus Pauling, Elisabeth Mann Borgese, and many others.
There are many glorious beings on our planet today and many more are emerging. We must unite ourselves with the flood of creativity pouring through the universes around us. The poet William Blake said: “That one who kisses joy as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise.” We are learning to celebrate each moment and each other and all the forms of life.
The horizons that stretch before us in our swiftly changing world are surrounded by dangers and possibilities. The future pulls us, shapes our dreams, opens many paths before us. Let us welcome our days with great expectations! Let us dance forward into it, celebrating life with everlasting hope.