The University Record, April 8, 2002

Mitchell gives views on world peace

By Elizabeth Manasse
Record Intern

Mitchell (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell addressed the question “Is World Peace an Impossible Dream?” at Hill Auditorium April 4.

“On Sept. 11, many people died and so did many illusions—like the American sense of invulnerability,” says Mitchell. Except for the Civil War, Mitchell said, Americans always feel that the terrible things that happen in distant lands can’t happen in the United States. The lesson, he said, is that no place on earth is immune from terror.

Power is often perceived by other nations to be America’s greatest strength, Mitchell said, as evidenced by the numerous nations who wish to have an American military presence on their soil.

Mitchell urged the audience never to forget that the United States was a great nation before it was a great military power. He regards the Bill of Rights as one of the greatest political accomplishments in history. America, he said, should use its strength as a dominant power for a great and noble vision—to promote education, opportunity, and prosperity for Americans and people of all nations.

“In a time of instantaneous communication, every problem in the world is seen as an American problem,” said Mitchell. The United States has been thrust to the center of the world stage, and Mitchell sees America as having the responsibility to continue to promote peace, justice and security.

“Where men and women don’t have hope and opportunity, there are the ingredients for instability and violence,” Mitchell said. America’s efforts at peacemaking should be focused on economic growth and creating job opportunities for people in every corner of the world. Policies that encourage economic growth, he said, give people a chance to live in dignity. Promoting the generation of jobs gives people the chance for success and to be productive members of society.

If peace is defined as a complete absence of conflict between nations, the answer to whether world peace is a possible dream, Mitchell said, is “probably not.” He attributes this to the escalating population of the earth and the rising demand for resources, such as land and water. However, if peace is defined as the absence of a major war, Mitchell commented, “I believe it to be entirely feasible.”

Mitchell chaired peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, which led to the landmark Good Friday Agreement of 1998. He has written a book about the experience, “Making Peace.” In 2000, he served as chair of the International Fact Finding Committee that examined the crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians. The American Red Cross appointed him in December 2001 as independent overseer of the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, which was established to coordinate relief efforts in response to the Sept. 11 tragedies.

The presentation was sponsored by U-M’s International Institute, and was a key event in the Institute’s initiative on Religion, Security and Violence in Global Contexts.