DECEMBER 2020      NUMBER 40


William Timpson, Robert Meroney, Del Benson and Lloyd Thomas

Fort Collins Rotary Club

Robyn Dolgin, Designer, Owner-Wild Iris Landscaping

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to educate others by promoting the foundational skills for promoting peace and civility, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties. In this issue we focus on peace parks and trails and what may be possible in your community. Visit our blog and comment if you wish:


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. He can be reached at

We are currently coping with a worldwide pandemic.  Until there is a vaccine, the best way most of us can avoid becoming ill is to wear a facial covering, keep our distance (6-12 feet) from one another and “stay inside.”  There is however, another beneficial and forceful activity in which we can engage that will stimulate our healing system and maintain our health.  That healing force is “Nature.”

The notion that Nature can heal us is not new.  Sometimes, I think there have been no new ideas since the Greeks.  The great Greek physician, Hippocrates, wrote, “Nature itself is the best physician.”  More recently in 2001, the Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SHEN), Carolyn Raffensperger, coined the term “Ecological medicine” and in her book, Our Planet, Our Selves, wrote, “The health of Earth’s ecosystem is the foundation of all health. Human impact in the form of population pressure, resource abuse, economic self-interest, and inappropriate technologies is rapidly degrading the environment. This impact, in turn, is creating new patterns of human and ecosystem poverty and disease. The tension among ecosystem health, public health, and individual health is reaching a breaking point at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century.”

Research today demonstrates and confirms that the healing and restorative effects of nature have a profound impact on our health and well-being.  For example, there are studies that show some trees emit invisible chemicals known as “phytoncides” that reduce our bodies’ production of stress hormones like cortisol, lower blood pressure and improve one’s immunity.  Another study showed that people living near urban green space reported “less mental distress, have lower incidence of 15 diseases, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines.”

It seems that we are beginning to recognize that Nature indeed heals body, mind and spirit.  It is no wonder that for centuries, thousands of cultures and enlightened masters have always encouraged our connection with nature. For instance, Buddha left his palace at a very young age to seek “liberation and enlightenment” in the woods. He even advised his disciples to meditate in the jungle to reach higher states of consciousness. Naturalist and zoologist, John Muir, wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  And again, Muir wrote, “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”  Even Albert Einstein recognized the value of being in nature when he wrote, Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 85% of the reasons that people seek medical treatment are “directly related to stress.”  In this time of a COVID-19 pandemic, a whole lot of us are “stressed to the max.”  In the book, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age,” author, Richard Louv, writes, “One of the main benefits of spending time in nature is stress reduction.”

Perhaps, all of us should pay attention to Louv when he acknowledges, There is something magical about being in nature. You cannot put it in words, but you feel it deep within – it touches your spirit. Just a few minutes of being in nature makes us feel healed and restored. Nature gives us strength, drains away all negative energy and fills us to the brim with positive energy.”


Robyn Dolgin owns Wild Iris Living, LLC and is along-time landscape designer/consultant,

artist, writer, educator, and plant advocate.

There has never been a more urgent time than now to begin conceptualizing a Peace Park and Peacebuilder’s Trail for Fort Collins and other communities around the world. I would love to see a network of these transformational sites lighting up the planet, serving as sacred spaces for troubled individuals seeking inner peace or trying to resolve differences when in a group dynamic. Knowing that there are numerous such sister sites around the planet could help us feel more related and of similar mind and issue to those we’ve never met.

When we are at a place of inner peace, it is much easier to make peace with others in our family and community. From that calm and compassionate state, it is also easier to then see the relationship and importance between our own well-being and that of the environment we live in, both locally and at large.  Hopefully all-important self-care would lead to care of the other, spilling over to care of this exquisitely beautiful world that we have been blessed with. 

When the setting for these transformations is outdoors within the gentle embrace of nature, we are in a nurturing place that will be more likely to foster healing and reconciliation. There will be no walls or ceilings which can sometimes create a closed in, pressure cooker type feeling which can only exacerbate already difficult situations. It also encourages us to connect to the bigger picture – that of One Planet and our role as guardians. 

Having a Peacebuilder’s Trail in association with the Peace Park would serve as a meaningful way to honor those who have positively impacted our community and the lives of others in this realm. It could serve as an inspiration to all generations, but particularly the youth who need to pave the way for a more peaceful and sustainable future. 

I recall how trees opened their limbs to me in my youth, providing comfort and solace when times were rough. As a horticultural program coordinator for several years at the Gardens on Spring Creek, I could see how the benefits of working with plants actually did improve the lives of volunteers and visitors as the mission intended. And of course as of late during our universal troubles, few would dispute the peace of mind that is provided by spending time in one’s garden growing our own food while supporting nature’s wildlife, our all-important partners on the planet.   

The increased popularity of our parks and open spaces has never been greater than they are now.  People are realizing how physically and mentally restorative and important these places are to help us not only survive but continue to thrive and deal with whatever challenges come our way.  

With this in mind, may our work towards creating a Peace Park and Peacebuilder’s Trail be one of our all-important legacies, contributing to opportunities for healing the wounds of the past, solving today’s problems, and laying the foundation for a way forward for generations to come.  



Robert N. Meroney, Ph.D. is a Rotarian and an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University. He can be reached at Robert.Meroney@ColoState.EDU

Parks, gardens, cemeteries, war grounds, and trails have often been established to memorialize both the sacrifices of soldiers during war, the suffering of civilians and victims, and a commitment of nations to seek peaceful relationships.   The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) operates and maintains U.S. military cemeteries, memorials, and monuments both inside and outside the United States.  In addition the U.S., Canada, and Mexico maintain several trans-boundary Parks along national borders that are public reminders of peaceful cooperation (Glacier, Klondike Gold Rush, Waterton Lakes National Parks, and Peace Arch Park between the US and Canada, and the joint Big Bend/Santa Elena Canyon areas along the Mexican border.)

Probably the most well-known burial location is the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia which was established after the Civil War on the grounds of the estate of George Washington Parke Curtis, grandson of Martha Washington and adopted son of George Washington.  The estate at that time was the former home of Robert E. Lee, Confederate General.   The Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania reminds us all of one of the most brutal battles of the Civil War, during which between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers of North and South were casualties, the costliest in U.S. history.  

Similarly, the Trail of Tears that winds about 2,200 miles through nine states in the South including land and water routes reminds us of the mistreatment and suffering of the Cherokee (22,000 removed, 8,000 died), Creek (19,600 removed, 3,500 died), Choctaw (12,500 removed, 4000 died), Chickasaw (4,000 removed, and 800 died), and Seminole (2,800 removed, 700 died) Native American Indian peoples as they were forcefully displaced from their southern homes by the US government. 

But there is another park that lies today within the boundaries of the United States but commemorates a little-known today war standoff between the United States and Canada/United Kingdom that lasted from 1859 to 1872 (13 years) … The Pig War.  The dispute was over the possession of the San Juan Islands that lie in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between the State of Washington, US, and Vancouver Island, Canada.  

Tensions arose due to confusion about the location of the U.S./Canada border after the Oregon Treaty of 1846 which defined the boundary along the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude.  The treaty writers were not really familiar with the geography of the area, and the final treaty signed left the exact location of the boundary in the Strait undefined.

In an effort to establish possession by occupation both American and Canadian citizens occupied farms on San Juan Island and claimed ownership.  On June 15, 1859, the ambiguity led to direct conflict between an American farmer and an employee of the Hudson Bay Company.  A large black pig owned by a Hudson Bay employee intruded and rooted up the American farmer’s potato garden.  This was a repeated offense, and the furious farmer shot the pig but offered to pay damages.  He offered $10 (equivalent to $280 in 2018), but the pig owner demanded $100 ($2800 in 2018 dollars). 

The farmer claimed this was extortionate and refused to pay, so the British authorities threatened to arrest the farmer.   The American farmers called for US military protection.  Escalation followed with a detachment of 66 American soldiers sent to establish a gun battery and military redoubt on the island, while the British Governor of Vancouver ordered the British navy to land marines from five British warships to displace the Americans. 

British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes refused to engage and decided that “two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig” was foolish.  So, there was a standoff, and cooler heads sent for further instructions from London and Washington D.C.  As a result of negotiations between U.S. General Winfield Scott and British Governor James Douglas it was agreed both sides would hold their positions until international mediation could occur.  The English Camp was established on the north end of the island and the American Camp held land on the southern end of the island[1], each side limited to 100 men. 

This situation lasted for over 12 years with amiable and social exchanges including sports days, combined dinners, and summer balls occurring between both camps during the “Pig” or “Potato” war.  During the interim years, the United States was distracted by the Civil War, so little was resolved.  Finally, in 1871 the matter was arbitrated by German Emperor Wilhelm I who appointed a commission which decided in favor of the United States.  Today the Pig War is commemorated in the San Juan Island National Historical Park.[2]  American and British flags are still ritually raised over both military camps today.

Happily, aside from the death of one pig, this dispute was a bloodless conflict.  Noteworthy is that all disagreements need not result in physical conflict, not all military face-offs need to be life-taking confrontational, and peaceful negotiations are indeed possible. 




Del Benson, Ph.D. is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management.  He can be reached at Delwin.Benson@ColoState.EDU

Wage peace, manage conflicts, and facilitate cooperation by working together on common issues and opportunities as close to the situation as possible: Common Ground! Seek and identify common interests to the group, avoid immovable positions, and agree on common goals and directions of action. The closer one gets to the roots of interests and opportunities, the more likely there is a chance for cooperation: Common Ground!

National parks have been established around the world by executive actions in the interests of leaders and conservation but have displaced persons in the quest to have places for wildlife and sustainable conservation.

Rotary helped me to study wildlife conservation in Africa, so I’ll use the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park as an example of a reasonably modern and perhaps sustainable approach to protect environments and persons involved: Common Ground! This 35,000 kilometer-squared peace park began with a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 enjoining conservation boundaries with political boundaries of Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique.  The boundaries included existing national parks, communal lands, and private lands seeking cooperative management and use strategies. These countries discouraged interactions for immigration, tourism, and many professional uses when I first knew them in 1985.  Military and police battles and human conflicts raged between the countries.  

I was studying socio-economic values of wildlife on private lands in South Africa as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.  The timing and location of private interests was at the forefront of a movement to enhance national conservation practices and those actions contributed to the merits of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

Before cooperation began, friends in South Africa warned us about personal safety concerns with travel to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  Mozambique had much turmoil and many wildlife populations were reduced by military, poachers, local users, and wild land conversions to agriculture. Over time and with a common goal, greater cooperation between and within countries, fences between the parks started to come down and animals resumed old migratory routes that were blocked by earlier political boundaries: Common Ground!

We visited large private wildlife reserves west of and adjacent to Kruger National Park in South Africa where fences between National Park lands and private lands were taken down setting the stage for greater national and international cooperation. Society generally believes that wildlife is important to the greater good because they are part of the national heritage, they signify unique environmental components of biodiversity, and they reflect stability of natural systems. 

People outside of parks do not necessarily agree that wildlife have positive benefits, because animals cause conflicts and damage to private interests.  My purpose for being in South Africa was to learn how the private sector benefitted from having wildlife on their lands and their influence on national interest lands and management: Common Ground!

To my chagrin, many private properties were fenced to keep animals enclosed, similar to how national parks in the area fenced animals from being problems with the local and international neighbors. The landowners that I studied could make money from having animals on their lands only if they could keep them on the property, thus fencing began to increase.  Landholders sold the surplus animal production to other managers.  They culled excess numbers and sold the meat in clean butcheries for public purchase.  The most common use of animals was for tourism and managed hunting was used to reduce numbers, balance animals with the capabilities of the land, and to earn an income from and for management.

The phrase “if it pays it stays” seemed to be too crass of an economic paradigm for the young conservationist in me to accept, but I soon appreciated the significance of needing value for the beholder to take interest: Common Ground!  Values need not only have economic significance, because persons do many activities out of altruism for the greater good.  However, it is not prudent to expect local persons to suffer costs when other persons reap the benefits: Common Ground! Whether managing private lands or Peace Parks, seeking common benefits, and reducing unequal costs will more likely result in common actions: Common Ground!

Without common interests, conflicts result.  Without common goals conflicts result. With Common Ground, civil actions can be waged toward peaceful coexistence.


William Timpson, Ph.D. has been a professor, now retired, at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. He can be reached at

During a trip to the Orient as part of a Kellogg National Fellowship I wanted to better understand what can be done to promote recovery out of conflict, what individuals and people could do to recover from trauma. In Japan I was able to visit the peace park in Hiroshima which had been ground zero in 1945 when the U.S. dropped the first of two atomic bombs. Announcements by U.S. military spokesmen that this was a purely military target proved false when the radioactive dust settled and there were approximately 80,000 killed and another 35,000 injured, primarily women, children and elders. This area was once the city’s busiest commercial and residential district.

Yet the U.S. generals who carried out the bombing insisted to President Truman that Hiroshima was a legitimate military target where there would be few civilian casualties. Three days after that first bomb, a second atomic bomb that was dropped on Ngasaki and killed more than 39,000. Sixteen days later Japan surrendered. For many Americans that was the justification enough given the number of lives that would be lost for the allies to storm the Japanese home island using without resorting to the atomic bomb, a weapon prohibited by the Geneva Convention of which the U.S. was a signatory.

The question remains: Could this Peace Park serve as living memorial that prompts deeper consideration of these considerations and questions, leaving the world in both a better ethical place going forward as well as a better place for preventing nuclear weapons exchanges in the future?

The Peace Park in Hiroshima is a place to see that life could emerge from the devastation of this bombing. Trees, flowers and green lawns now feature striking statues, including a children’s Peace Monument that is decorated with colorful chains of paper cranes that the young fold and then travel to Hiroshima to hang here in public.

As these children return regularly to pay homage to this site and what happened here so should those committed to a more peaceful future follow their lead. As important, I would hope that communities around the world consider setting aside spaces for reflecting on peace, ideally with trees, flowers, green grass and statues to the children adorning these spaces. Universities and colleges everywhere could—and should—find spaces for addressing issues of peacebuilding, places where the various disciplines could meet for a common reference and goal.

In our book, 147 Practical Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation, Dean Nelson, a combat veteran who now refers to himself as a “peacenik,” writes: “Although different peace symbols are used throughout the world, the meanings are typically the same, that is, the absence of war, strife and suffering, a nicer and gentler world free from fear.

Several symbols seem to have near universal appeal, e.g., the white dove with an olive branch. Others may be associated more with a particular culture; e.g., the peace crane. Helping people learn more about the origins of these symbols can lead to valuable discoveries and rich discussions” (66-67). The Buddhist practice of Tonglen guides us in breathing in the horrors of events like the My Lai Massacre and breathing out positive thoughts of healing and peace.

In remembering the horrors of the atom bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima, Nelson found that the origin of the white dove as a symbol of peace has its roots in the Bible and the story of Noah’s Ark. The olive branch in its bill signaled the end of the flood and God’s forgiveness. The peace crane has its origins in post-World War Two Japan and the story of Sadako Sasaki and the thousand papercranes. The following description can be found on the web site for the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park:

Visitors to Peace Memorial Park see brightly colored paper cranes everywhere. These paper cranes come originally from the ancient Japanese tradition of origami or paper folding, but today they are known as a symbol of peace. They are folded as a wish for peace in many countries around the world. This connection between paper cranes and peace can be traced back to a young girl named Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia ten years after the atomic bombing.

Sadako was two years old when she was exposed to the A-bomb. She had no apparent injuries and grew into a strong and healthy girl. However, nine years later in the Fall when she was in the sixth grade of elementary school (1954), she suddenly developed signs of an illness. In February the following year she was diagnosed with leukemia and was admitted to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital. Believing that folding paper cranes would help her recover, she kept folding them to the end, but on October 25, 1955, after an eight-month struggle with the disease, she passed away.

Sadako’s death triggered a campaign to build a monument to pray for world peace and the peaceful repose of the many children killed by the atomic bomb. The Children’s Peace Monument that stands in Peace Park was built with funds donated from all over Japan. Later, this story spread to the world, and now, approximately 10 million cranes are offered each year before the Children’s Peace Monument. (See City of Hiroshima (n.d.). Paper cranes and the Children’s Peace Monument. Retrieved from )

Reflective activity: Try your hand at folding a peace crane. Inspire others to get involved whenever there is a tragedy to be remembered and a call for healing and peace is needed. Breathe in these difficult memories—including what we know of war-time horrors like at My Lai during the Vietnam War or the bombing of Hiroshima during World War Two—and then write wishes for peace in the paper squares. You can easily find directions by searching various web sites. Display your cranes locally or send them to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park by using the directions they provide on their website.


As a Vietnam War veteran, Mike Boehm felt traumatized by the impact of that war and the My Lai Massacre, in particular. Representing the Quakers in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as their chapter of Veterans for Peace, Boehm made a commitment to return to Vietnam and help lead an effort to build a peace park at the site of that massacre where troops under the command of William Calley torched a village and then slaughtered 504 villagers—again, primarily 182 women including 17 who were pregnant, elders and173 children that included 56 infants—as “suspected Viet Cong.” What stopped the killing was the courageous decision by Hugh Thompson, a U.S. helicopter pilot, to intervene when he recognized what was happening.  Landing, Thompson and the men under his command confronted Calley and his troops.

Horrified by this events, Boehm promised himself that he would return some day and, with support from Madison, Wisconsin Quakers, help rebuild what had been destroyed, specifically schools and health clinics. In addition, Boehm also led the effort to build a Peace Park on this site, unique in this small country that had seen a dramatic growth of military hero statues once the war ended and the Americans had left. Perhaps the My Lai Peace Park could also help a process of recovery for a nation that had suffered such enormous destruction and casualties with as many as 2,000,000 civilians on both sides dying along with over 1.2 million fighters.

Peace trails and centers

Boston, Massachusetts has a very famous “Freedom Trail” that celebrates historic moments and places that are part of the American experience during the lead up to the Revolution. In contrast to what they may have only read about previously in their textbooks, visitors—and think about the impact on the young—can deepen their understanding of events by climbing Bunker Hill and walking on to the nearby USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel sill afloat in the Charlestown Naval Yard. People can also visit Paul Revere’s house and reflect on that very special ride to warn the Americans of the imminent British attacks on Concord and Lexington. Nearby is also the historic Old South Meeting Hall and Faneuil Hall where the great orators of the day spoke about freedom, democracy and citizen rights.

Every community could create its own “Peace Trail” where local citizens could be celebrated for their contributions to a better and more inclusive community, one that is committed to peaceful transitions, truthful commentaries, honesty and integrity in every policy and practice. Plaques could be placed in specific areas, perhaps where other statues now stand and could use an updated context. As many museums now do, technology could be used to link to smart phones to create commentaries of those a community wants to celebrate for promoting peace.

The Corrymeela Community Center was founded in 1965 to aid individuals and groups who had suffered through violence and conflicts, stresses and losses in the deeply divided society of Northern Ireland, the legacy of an imperial conquest by British forces in the late 12th century. During the “Troubles” of the late twentieth century and after “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 when British troops fired on Catholics in Londonderry who were demonstrating for an end to second-class citizenship, historic prejudices, barriers and limitations. The Center at Corrymeela, then, became a safe, neutral space for all sides of this conflict to meet and discuss ways forward—an ideal reference point for the upcoming season of peace and goodwill.

The University of Ngozi would like to create something similar but expand the mission to include our collective needs to not only make peace with our own selves and others but with the natural world that supports all life. In truth, the very definition of sustainability calls for this kind of integrative perspective, a focus on the interconnected health of society, the environment and the economy.

  Apo and CSU sign in the field    Fr. Apollinaire Bangayimbaga, Ph.D. is the Rector of the University of Ngozi with a big dream of creating a Center for Peace and Nature in this area where people can feel the unifying spirit of nature as they review their differences and consider what is needed to build a sustainable peace.

A deep connection with the natural world motivates leaders and students at the University of Ngozi who want to promote new forms of cooperation through positive interdependence. In general, students must have a stake in each other’s success for the group experience to succeed. In order to complete a project, for example, everyone must contribute something of value, some part of the answer or final product.

Initial “peacekeeping” efforts often require a focus on separating combatants. Once the violence is contained, cooperative “peacemaking” efforts help to define the policies and practices needed to prevent conflicts from reigniting. Eventually, much more will be required for a deeper and broader “peacebuilding” effort where collective attention helps to improve communication and cooperation, critical and creative thinking, i.e., those historic, cultural and economic factors that have sparked conflict and violence in the past.

Inspire and learn through international service 

In Learning Life’s Lessons (Peace Knowledge Press, 2019) I write about the Cold War when in March of 1961 many feared the inevitability of a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. It was then that President John F. Kennedy initiated the Peace Corps through an executive order, beginning a tradition of international service that inspired thousands of Americans to volunteer and learn more about people in the far reaches of the planet, especially those in poor and developing areas. Since its first days some 200,000 volunteers have now served in 139 countries.

Today the call of the Peace Corps continues to expand, now resonating more with older and more specialized volunteers. The appeal of this program over so many years provides another model for increasing global understanding in our increasingly interdependent world. Could a Center for Peace and Nature help inspire the return of the Peace corps to Burundi now that the threat of the violence that propelled their exit in 1993 has subsided and calm has returned?

In our book, 147 Practical Tips for Peace and Reconciliation (2009, Atwood Publishing), we note how peace scholar and professor, Jing Lin (2006, p. 315) has advocated for a global ethic of universal love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. She provides a constructive, optimistic critique of the very purposes of education in the United States and around the world when the daily reports of violence and conflict indicate such a clear need for increased understanding and appreciation among countries and populations.

In her co-edited book, Transforming Education for Peace, Lin (2006) argues for a paradigm shift where the teaching of love comprises the central purpose of education. Lin maintains, “I envision our future schools will shift from a mechanical, functionalistic perspective that primarily emphasizes tests and efficiency, to a constructive, transformative paradigm where students’ intellectual, moral, emotional, spiritual, and ecological abilities are developed in order to promote understanding of the world and help nurture love and respect for all human beings and nature. In all, constructing a loving world should be the central purpose of education in the twenty-first century.” Pairing that ethic with service in the Peace Corps, for example, provides a context for reaching Lin’s vision in a realistic manner and connects peacebuilding efforts with the threats to sustainability and the earth’s limitations.

Reflective activity

Ask everyone to envision the ideal program, school, community, nation, or world where love, peace and sustainability serve as the foundation for education. Can Peace Corps serve that role? Can a Center for Peace and Nature also serve that role? Describe the curriculum, how teaching is conducted, how people are assessed on their capacities for providing needed services as well as a commitment to love, peacebuilding and sustainability, and how the policy context and rule of law shape the containers in which cultural actors engage in everyday actions.

Is it possible to develop a “Peacebuilder’s Trail” in your community similar to what Boston has created with its “Freedom Trail” of historical sites that existed at the birthplace of the American Revolution there? For example, Fort Collins, Colorado, could identify local people and places who were connected to the “birthplace” of the Peace Corps here including those who served as volunteers. This trail could also celebrate business leaders who were the first to break with the traditional racist exclusion of non-whites, i.e., “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed” was a sign that was often hung out at a store’s entrance.


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. He can be reached at

Last week, I wrote about the healing force of connecting with nature and introduced the concept of “ecological medicine.”  I received many inquiries about what ecological medicine meant.  Today, I want to share some of the concepts and values that are integrated in the field of ecological medicine.

Naturalist, John Muir wrote, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” He was ahead of his time.  In the October, 2002 issue of “The Networker” journal (Vol. 7 No. 4) you can find “The Case for Ecological Medicine.”  Within this essay you will read, “Ecological Medicine is a new field of inquiry and action to reconcile the care and health of ecosystems, populations, communities, and individuals. The health of Earth’s ecosystem is the foundation of all health.”

That essay goes on to share the following: “Ecological Medicine integrates the following concepts and values:

  • Interdependence. Each of us is deeply connected with Earth’s ecosystems; each of our lives is only a moment in the grand scale of time. Ultimately, we all depend on the health of the global community and of Earth’s biosphere for our own health and happiness. Individuals cannot live healthy or happy lives in poisoned ecosystems and unhealthy communities. By the same token, healthy communities and biological systems depend on human restraint and responsibility in technologies, population, production, and consumption.
  • Resilience. Health in humans and ecosystems is not a steady state but a dynamic one marked by resilience. Both medicine and ecosystem science and management should focus on promoting and restoring the innate ability of biological systems to protect themselves, recover, and heal. Systems that draw upon or mimic the elegance, economies, and resilience of nature offer promising paths for health care research and development.
  • “First, do no harm.” Health care should not undermine public health or the environment. This precautionary principle should be applied to decisions affecting the ecosystem, populations, communities, and individuals.
  • Appropriateness. “Medicine,” in its Greek origins, means “appropriate measures.” The goal is to achieve maximal health with minimal intervention, promoting good health that is appropriate to an individual’s stage of life without overburdening Earth’s life-sustaining processes.
  • Diversity. Health is served by diverse approaches, including many traditional healing systems, local adaptations, and indigenous science around the world. Ecological Medicine encourages freedom of medical choice, guided by informed consent and compassionate practice.
  • Cooperation. In order to gain knowledge and improve practices, patients should be partners with practitioners, and medical professionals should cooperate with ecologists and other students of the natural world. Health care organizations should be managed with the active participation of the communities they serve, while communities must learn to integrate their welfare with that of their regional ecosystems.
  • Reconciliation. Individual health care services should be economically sustainable, equitable, modest in scale, of high quality, noncommercial, and readily available to all. Societies should build and maintain infrastructures that assure all citizens the capability to meet basic needs such as health, nutrition, family planning, shelter, and meaningful work while minimizing harm to the Earth. Societies should increasingly devote their material and creative resources to policies and projects that restore and maintain the health of biological and human neighborhoods. All efforts to improve human welfare must be conducted within a cooperative framework established by the health of the Earth.”

Why do I think the above essay is so important?  I agree that the foundation of all our health and well-being is the health and balance of all the natural ecosystems of our planet.  The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Today, instead of conflicting with one another, all healing disciplines and movements of public health, ecology, conventional medicine, complementary and alternative medicines, conservation medicine, conservation biology, and campaigns such as “Health Care Without Harm” have sought to address any conflicts between your individual health, public health, and ecosystem health.

As you take full responsibility for creating a lifestyle of maximum health and well being, I hope you find this column useful.


See the RI website: If you would you like to respond to one of the pieces in this newsletter, check out our blog and join the conversation! If you would like to contribute to a future newsletter, visit You can find some of our past issues at the Rotary District 5440 website: Future issues may explore the following: JANUARY (A New Year with New Possibilities; FEBRUARY—Transforming Conflict. If you have ideas for future topics, please send them to any of our writers.

[1] The American camp redoubt was built under the supervision of new West Point graduate 2nd Lieutenant Henry Martyn Robert; and Robert went on to become a General in the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War and author of Robert’s Rules of Order.  Today, Robert’s Redoubt is considered the best-preserved fortification of its kind in the United States.

[2] National Park Service, San Juan Island National Historical Park  and



NOVEMBER 2020        NUMBER 39


The Role for Understanding and Promoting Sustainable Peacebuilding

William Timpson, Robert Meroney, Del Benson and Lloyd Thomas.

Fort Collins Rotary Club

Jim Halderman, Rotary District 5450

Roy C. Bath, Fort Collins Dan Lyons Chapter of Veterans for Peace

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to educate others by promoting the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties. Visit our blog and comment if you wish:


Robert N. Meroney, Ph.D. is a Rotarian and an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University. He can be reached at Robert.Meroney@ColoState.EDU

Fair and free elections were not always automatic or guaranteed in the United States.  Freedom of speech was curtailed, and criticism of the government, congress, or the President resulted in monetary fines and imprisonment.[1]  Between 1798 to 1801 the Federalist Party under President John Adams and leadership of Alexander Hamilton passed the Alien and Sedition Acts to punish any person who shall

…write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute…  [2]

Adams and Hamilton argued the laws were appropriate because English and American courts had long punished seditious libel under common law, and the freedom of speech must be balanced with an individual’s responsibility for false statements.  Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drafted secretly documents opposing these acts which were submitted to the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures.  If identified, they both could have been arrested and tried for treason.  

The early divisive behavior of the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican Party validated the worry of many founding fathers that eventually political factions would tear the nation apart.  Political parties in England had led to bloody civil wars during the 17th century, so many saw parties/factions as “corrupt relics of the monarchial British system.”[3]   George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, all warned against factionalism; whereas, Thomas Jefferson felt factionalism in government was inevitable, and he wrote to Henry Lee in 1824

…men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties.   1. those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.   2. those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them cherish and consider them as the most honest & safe, altho’ not the most wise depository of the public interests…

However, Jefferson idealistically also noted in the same letter that:

“like religious differences, a difference in politics should never be permitted to enter into social intercourse, or to disturb its friendships, its charities or justice.”[4] 

Even before the U.S. Constitution was ratified, James Madison wrote the tenth of the Federalist Papers, under the name “Publius”, in which he addressed the question of how to reconcile citizens with different interests that result in factionalism.  The Paper was titled “The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection.”[5] He argued that a representative republic is the most effective form to diminish the influence of partisanship and factionalism.  He felt that a decentralized national government structure would make it

“more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.”

George Washington described his concern about party factionalism in his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1796,[6] and in particular to the rise of a populist leader,

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty..”

Winston Churchill pointed out that

“…democracy has flourished under party government. That is to say, it has flourished so long as there is full freedom of speech, free elections and free institutions. So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard.  Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it [free speech] is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”… Oct 13, 1943[7]

Unfortunately, differences of opinion can often lead one to errors of confirmation bias with internal arguments like,

  • I am right; thus, (if you disagree) you are wrong,
  • I am honest and good; thus, (if you disagree) you must be bad and evil,
  • My opinions are based on religious truth; thus, (if you disagree) you must be a sinner, and
  • I am thoughtful and intelligent; thus, (if you disagree) you must be a fool.

Our concern today must be that factionalism, intolerance, and suspicion must not be allowed to endanger our rights of free expression.  At the same time, we must recognize that even the most honest and free elections may not solve all our problems and concerns. 

  • Elections do not provide black and white answers, they only support one point of view,
  • Elections do not necessarily resolve controversy, they may just extend it,
  • Elections do not assure compromise, and
  • Elections are not conclusive…there are always others in the future.

Contributing Author is a noted sinner, evil, a fool and often wrong…but, as added by the Editor, also someone who challenges others to think and rethink!


Del Benson, Ph.D. is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management.  He can be reached at Delwin.Benson@ColoState.EDU

Peace starts with environmental conservation resembling trees with foundations of roots nurturing life, strong trunks to support programs, and limbs that position leaders in multiple directions.

Leaders are similar to photosynthetic processes of leaves that convert energies from air, soil and water, into growth.  Good leaders can be rated by the conservation-energy they generate, the direction of their growth, and their ability to bend with the breeze without breaking.

Selecting the best environmental presidents was easy, frustrating, and reflected coincidental dynamics of the times.  Presidents affected environmental conservation by their actions and inactions.  My short list reflects personal environmental and study of land, plants, animals, and persons as a conservationist. Political parties of each president are: Republican (R) and Democratic (D).  First and last entries are favored bookends of Presidents Roosevelt, who had different views, political parties, and legacies.

Four links to add to your thinking follow:

Theodore Roosevelt (R) is my enthusiastic first choice. He loved nature, hunted, wrote about it, led conservation movements, and was perhaps the first environmental president.  His conservation organizational leadership helped to create the first national park in the World, Yellowstone in 1872, under President Ulysses S Grant and provided a citizen and political legacy with lasting significance.

Theodore as President set aside major portions of land in the US most notably in the West and protected them in the public interest by the National Forest Service agency managing 150 national forests. That movement set the stage for lands adjacent to Forest Service lands to be set aside in 1946 by the Bureau of Land Management long after Roosevelt’s early successes. 

He created the first 18 National Monuments through the Antiquities Act, such as Muir Woods, Grand Canyon, and Devil’s Tower.  Over 50 national wildlife refuges, 4 national game preserves, and 5 national parks added to his protection of approximately 230 million acres of public land.

Richard Nixon (R) did not reflect enthusiasm for environmental matters, but many and major accomplishments were signed by him that were developing in the 1960s. The spread of influential environmental groups in the 1960s and Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962 about poor environmental health prompted governments, agencies, and leaders to act on environmental concerns. Months before the first earth day in 1970, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency which provided institutional personnel, policy, and the use of environmental impact reviews and formal integrated management statements for federal projects. It also provided environmental standards reaching into state and local environmental management policies and programs. Nixon also ushered in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Who deserves the next spot? Emma Bryce reported in The New York Times environmental blog, a rating system of what conservation organizations thought about presidents. They rated Theodore Roosevelt dominantly first with 28 points followed by Richard Nixon with 15 points and Jimmy Carter next with 13 points.  Other presidents rated, dropped to 7 points with Obama and down to 1 point for Clinton. 

Jimmy Carter (D) was environmentalist at heart and pushed Congress and the Executive Branch to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency, consolidate agencies to form the U.S. Department of Energy, and pushed through two major bills: one protected 104 million acres of land in Alaskan wilderness; and the Superfund program cleaned up close to 400 toxic sites. 

Carter asked Americans to reduce their energy use to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren. “Stewardship of the earth, not exploitation, was our role,” he believed from his roots in the Georgia soil and with his Southern Baptist soul. Did his environmental stewardship depart from the Judeo-Christian theology of “being fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:27-28)? Perhaps dominion meant sustainable conservation to Carter.

Ronald Reagan (R) signed the 1985 Farm Bill that continues today to reduce soil erosion and air pollution from marginal agricultural lands.  The bill funded programs and mangers to help wildlife living on private agricultural landscapes.  Private lands occupy about 2/3rds of the U.S. giving this legislation potential for broad implications.  Unfortunately, he also gutted the Environmental Protection Agency, fired the Superfund chief leading to an exodus of employees, and repealed the Clean Water Act.  He benefitted economically and politically when the oil embargo from middle east was lifted making oil and gasoline abundant and less expensive ushering in more consumption that “trickled down.”

Barack Obama (D) was president when climate change became a major issue and a controversy with his political opponents.  He asserted environmental attitudes and ideas in the U.S. and globally.  The polarity among political leaders increased during his years and since, making collaborative decisions about environmental policy very difficult.

Franklin Roosevelt (D) is placed in the final spot since he was not rated highly in the survey, but for me he was second only to Theodore Roosevelt.  Franklin created the “New Deal” addressing unemployment and repair of environmental damage after the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.  The Civilian Conservation Corps employed three million men over nine years to conserve land and natural resources and raised public awareness of the outdoors and active management.

Conservation groups flourished in the 1930s and helped Franklin to create the Soil Conservation Service, now called Natural Resources Conservation Service, to manage private agricultural lands after the Dust Bowl.  The most valuable bill ever created to fund, research, manage and share scientific education about wildlife conservation was the Pitman Robinson Bill in his term.  It earmarked excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment which the US Fish and Wildlife Service used to provide matching money for state wildlife agencies.

Professionalism flourished because users of the money had to do research and management, publish and share reports, and state legislators could not siphon funds from the state agency for other purposes if they used these federal dollars.  He added over one-quarter of the 411 areas in today’s national Park Service system by expanding the National Park Service with parks, monuments, national cemeteries, memorials, and military parks.  He believed that history, culture, and nature all played roles in the exceptional saga of the United states.

I share that interrelationship!


William Timpson, Ph.D. has been a professor, now retired, at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. He can be reached at

In my 2019 book, Learning Life’s Lessons, I note that in early colonial New Zealand, as in other European societies, women were excluded from any involvement in politics. However, public opinion began to change in the latter half of the nineteenth century and inspired by the effort by activists over many years, in September of 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing colony in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In the U.S. it would require another 27 years for the 19th Amendment to pass in 1920 and women would be allowed to vote. The following “tip” is adapted from some of my work on the principles of sustainability in promoting healthy and viable democratic systems of government.

In Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, Bill McKibben (2003) identifies Gandhi as someone who is widely revered for challenging the world to use nonviolent noncooperation as a mechanism for resistance to powerful oppressors. Yet Gandhi also represented much more. “It is no coincidence that Gandhi was also the most powerful twentieth-century spokesman for the proposition that less is more, that human satisfaction lies in respecting material limits, in opening yourself to the claims of others, in backing away from the hyper-individualism of the West” (p. 217). Are there any leaders who support sustainability, equity and social justice already in place in your community? How do we identify and unleash the leadership potential among students?

RECOMMENDATIONS: Given the changes needed for a more sustainable future that balances environmental, economic, and societal needs, we need to find leaders at every level of society and in every community, men and women, who will spearhead these changes and inspire others to follow their lead. Make a list of individuals who could lead this redirection. Identify leaders from the past who had the qualities needed today.

 In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to visit with Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, at the Peace House, a Belfast building that now serves as a base for various groups and projects working toward a sustainable peace in Northern Ireland. Election results continue to support the Good Friday Peace Accord.  


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. He can be reached at

For the past few weeks, over and over again we have heard, “Voting is the responsible thing to do.”  If we haven’t already done so, in 7 days, we have this responsible “thing” to do.  So today, I want to write about being “responsible” and being “helpless.”

Responsibility is defined as “being able to respond from within and doing so in accordance with one’s own and others’ expectations.”  Living in a democratic nation, we are expected to engage in voting as the “responsible thing” to do.  Yet for many reasons many of us feel “helpless” to do so.

When you were young, your responses to environmental stimuli were based upon inborn reflexes.  You reacted to sensory stimulation.  As you matured, you learned to manage and control your reactions in accordance with what you found to be pleasurable or painful.  Those reactions that you regularly repeated became unconscious habits.  Many of those habits are continued long into adulthood.  Reactivity usually becomes the standard way people function in the world.  Responding reactively sends the message that you are “helpless” to act differently…on your own.  As an adult, do you really want to send such a message?

That great Stoic Philosopher, Epicetus, wrote, “It is our attitude toward events, not the events themselves, which we can control.” When you were a teenager, you may have heard questions like, “Why can’t you be more responsible?”  Or you may have heard, “I can’t trust you with the car until you become more responsible.”  You probably became convinced that being responsible was something in which you were grossly deficient.

Many adults believe that responsibilities are the reactions or behaviors that were expected of them by someone else.  For instance, the responsibilities of walking the dog or taking out the trash, or getting good grades in school, are behaviors that fulfilled the expectations of parents and teachers.  Engaging in these responsibilities may or may not meet your own adult expectations or desires. Personal responsibility is not blame, nor is it exercising good judgment.  It is neither duties nor liabilities.  It is much more important than these.  How you choose to habitually respond, forms the foundation of your personal integrity as well as your lifestyle.  Your current mental, emotional and behavioral habits are what create your future.

Consistently reacting to external stimulation essentially makes you a victim of circumstance.  Reactivity robs you of choice.  When you consistently react to others, you give them all the power to determine how you behave.  On the other hand, consciously choosing how you want to react makes responses out of your reactions.  Responses are chosen.  Reactions are reflexive or habitual.  Being response-able is about freely choosing how you want to respond in any given situation.  Taking full responsibility is breaking the dependent, reactive habits of childhood (and victimhood).  It is exercising your freedom to respond in any way you want to any circumstance you’re in.

When I put myself in a position of being fully responsible for my choices (behavior), a wonderful thing happens…it frees you because you have no responsibility for how I choose to respond. Taking responsibility for all my attitudes, actions and choices empowers you!  It allows you to become “response-able” (able to respond).  My being able to respond to life strengthens your autonomy and allows you to consciously create your future.  I can’t blame you. I can’t blame God. I can’t blame anything or anybody.  When I assume full responsibility for my own behavior, my own despair, my own tears, my own joy, my own attainments and, I hope, my own happiness, I realize I’m no longer helpless victim. That is personal responsibility.  That is personal power!

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes his experiences in no less than 5 death camps during World War II.  During that time, he realized that his captors could take away his liberty, but they could not take away his freedom to respond to his situation in whatever way he chose.  Becoming response able or able to respond moves you out of the role of victim.  It is taking autonomous control of your way of being in the world.  Taking personal response-ability for all that you think, say and do, frees you to choose your own way of being in the world.  It allows you to choose new responses to old circumstances.  It allows you to re-program your unconscious habits according to your current, conscious choices.  It brings you the freedom to design and create your current lifestyle and your future.

Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”  This week, become great by choosing to vote.


Roy C. Bath has been active in the Fort Collins Rotary Peacebuilder Fellowship. He is a former Marine with combat service in Vietnam who then worked with public defenders in Colorado. He is the Coordinator of the Fort Collins Dan Lyons Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

He can be reached at

On November 11, just after the election here in the U.S., we celebrate Veteran’s Day. As a former Marine and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, I have concerns about where our elected leaders have taken us. Today, it seems to me that war permeates almost every aspect of our society. Despite the many problems we face as a nation, we continue to give 15% of our federal tax dollars to the military and roughly half of discretionary federal spending as reported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[i] In terms of international comparisons, the U.S, spends more on the military than the next ten nations combined, as reported by the National Priorities Project.[ii] We have the military at our colleges and universities; they recruit in our schools. They recruit our youth and send them to war, declared or not.

This Armistice day, let us call on our elected leaders to rethink these priorities and renew our commitment to peace. Let us look at the COVID-19 crisis, the existential crisis facing our planet, the income inequality crisis, our health-care crisis, and our “war problem” as opportunities to create a more peaceful world. Colorado State University is home to many who have served in the Peace Corps. The Philosophy department teaches a course on peace and the University has other courses that address peace. Let’s build on what is here to further promote peace. Let us honor all the Veterans who gave their lives in war by working to create peace. It’s the decent thing to do. And let’s elect those who can support us in this direction.

Human decency demands that we do more to end war and the costs of military preparedness. I do not believe that this is a left or right issue, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic. Ending war and the excesses of military expenditure are really about honoring humanity, about our empathy and respect for others, trust and communication with others. Human decency is also about reverence and respect for our planet, our home, the earth and all who live upon it. Human decency demands that we work seriously to promote peace. Our children’s future depends upon it. Electing leaders who embrace this vision is essential.

The problems that we face are formidable: Are we going to have a democratically based government or an authoritarian government? Are we going to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change? Are we going to use scientific evidence to guide our response to the pandemic? Are we going to make healthcare a right?

Or are we going to continue to ignore the underemployed and the unemployed? Are we going to tackle the income inequality? Are we going to investin our youth by giving them an education that will enable them to develop their talents and abilities so that they can contribute to the overall development of our society? In short are we going to work for the betterment of our people; or will we continue to spend over a trillion dollars a year for war?

To understand the cost of war more accurately, let us take a look at the Cost of War Project at Brown University. 


The Role of Rotary in Promoting Democratic Principles Through Peacebuilding

Jim Halderman teaches court ordered, private, and prison-oriented anger management and communication skills.  A Rotarian of 29 years he is a Past District Governor, district peace committee chair, and ombudsman for District 5450. He can be reached at

            “I have no hesitation in saying that world peace could be achieved

            and made permanent if reared on Rotary’s firm foundation of

                                    friendliness, tolerance, and usefulness”

                                                                        Paul Harris, Message to 1940 RI Convention

Recently in an unpublished paper submitted for peer review, Professor Goldstone, a sociologist, and Peter Turchin, an expert on mathematical modeling of historical societies, have concluded that the U.S. is “headed for another civil war”. The conditions for civil violence, they say, are the worst since the 19th century – in particular, the years leading up to the start of the American Civil War in 1861. The reason for this is trends that began in the 1980s.  “With regard to inequality, selfish elites and polarization have crippled the ability of the U.S. government to mount an effective response to the pandemic disease,” they write.  “This has also hampered our ability to deliver an inclusive economic relief policy and exacerbated the tensions over racial injustice.” We also currently have a stock market at an all-time high while one-half of the nation is food insecure, rent insecure, and one major auto repair away from walking.

After pages of graphs explaining their work, they do end with optimistic possibilities.  First, awareness of the issues brings potential resolutions.  Second, Goldstone believes the present has also brought out the best in some Americans.  “There’s something good in America that is still very much alive,” he said.

It is my sincere belief that Rotarians now stand in a position to be the forerunner of a positive change.  Rotary is “something good in America”.  Paul Harris began Rotary to be an alternative to the unethical business practices which had become the way of operation in Chicago.  As individuals, as communities, and as colleagues, most have endured challenging times before that ended positively.

The tools for Rotarians are extensive.  As any carpenter knows, most require training, practice, and conscious awareness.  So what is in our toolbox? Let’s start with the 4-Way Test.  

  1. Does Truth serve as the way we live at all times?  Are we comfortable calling out obvious lies we hear around us in a positive constructive manner?  Do we demand consistency of our leaders or are we OK when the lie benefits us?  Have we developed a habit of lying to avoid negative feelings? 
  • Fairness requires sensitivity to others around us.  Fairness deals with equality, justice, and consistency. 
  • The third test deals with goodwill and better friendships.  Every word we utter, action we take, or expression we make either builds our relationships or defeats a positive connection.  Do we always broadcast a positive demeanor even in front of negativity? 
  • And last, is it Beneficial to all Concerned?  If we were to take four seconds to ask ourselves these questions prior to responding to a negative event, it could positively change the outcome.

In the second drawer of our toolbox are Rotary’s Core Values of Leadership, Integrity, Service, Diversity, and Fellowship.  Rotarians are recognized for their leadership ability; they take action, and are committed to completion.  For example, Rotary is continuously recognized for the leadership and commitment shown in its efforts to eradicate polio.  Integrity was the original reason Rotary exists and remains a critical element.  “Service Above Self” is our motto and what we do.  The concept of fairness, goodwill, and beneficial to all has no limits to whom it should apply.  Rotarians are made up of great diversity throughout the Rotary world.  It is in the process of fellowship that leaders join, share ideas, and take action.

One of the newest and very exciting tools in Rotary’s toolbox as of 2017 is the relationship with the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).  IEP is an independent, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human wellbeing and progress.  It quantifies and measures what works towards the development of peace.  After analyzing over 4,000 markers in 166 countries, eight pillars consistently stood out as essential to peace.  They are:

  • Well-functioning Government
    • Equitable Distribution of Resources
    • Free Flow of Information
    • Good Relations with Neighbors
    • High Levels of Human Capital
    • Acceptance of the Rights of Others
    • Low Levels of Corruption
    • Sound Business Environment

All of these function equally well on the macro or micro level.  Whether it is our neighbor next door, community, or world, all are essential to a peaceful environment.  They also point out the greatness of Rotary International’s 4-Way Test.  If we embrace this test and our core values, then these eight pillars are assumed, predictable, and automatic.  Aristotle said that a virtue is a trait of character manifested in habitual action.  Are the virtues of our magnificent toolbox always a habit with us? 

When Rotarians live to be beneficial to others, attempt to expand goodwill through better friendships, and live with integrity, they will defeat the angst and turmoil taking place in front of us. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan mentions we all want to live as well as possible, but none of us can flourish unless we have a peaceful, cooperative social order.  And we cannot have a peaceful, cooperative social order without rules.  The moral rules, then, are simply the rules that are necessary if we are to gain the benefits of social living.  Rotary’s toolbox is filled with the most powerful moral rules.

The role, now more than ever, is for Rotarians to promote democratic principles through social living, allowing the 4-Way Test to become habit, and embracing our core values.  We must recognize our security, our peace, comes not from carrying the biggest club as someone will always find a larger one, but from the power of compassion, from love, from creating goodwill and understanding.  When taking the time to truly listen and understand another’s point of view, it is always amazing how much commonality we can discover.  As Goldstone said: “There is something good in America that’s still very much alive.”  That “good” is innate in Rotarians.  Let’s go wage peace!



See the RI website: If you would you like to respond to one of the pieces in this newsletter, check out our blog and join the conversation! If you would like to contribute to a future newsletter, visit You can find some of our past issues at the Rotary District 5440 website: Future issues may explore the following: DECEMBER—(Timpson) A Peace Park and Peacebuilder’s Trail. JANUARY—(Timpson) Transforming Conflict. If you have ideas for future topics, please send them to any of our writer.


[1] Alien and Sedition Acts,, March 2020  

[2] An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes Against the United States

[3] The Founding Fathers Feared Political Factions Would Tear the Nation Apart,, March 2019

[4] Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 10 August 1824, Founders Early Access, University of Virginia Press, 2009-2020

[5] Federalist Paper No. 10, written by James Madison in 1787 

[6] George Washington Farewell Address, 1796

[7] 1943 October 13, Hansard, United Kingdom Parliament, Commons, Coalmining Situation, Speaking: The Prime Minister (Winston Churchill), HC Deb, volume 392, cc920-1012

[i] See:

[ii] See:  



OCTOBER 2020           NUMBER 38


William Timpson, Robert Meroney, Del Benson and Lloyd Thomas.

Fort Collins Rotary Club

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to educate others by promoting the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties. Visit our blog and comment if you wish:


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. He can be reached at

For the past few days, I have been thinking about how peace is created, developed and sustained both within ourselves and societies.  These thoughts are not new.  They have been talked about throughout history.  I hope you can find some of them useful during these stressful, uncertain times.

Back in 2005, Deepak Chopra wrote a book titled, “Peace Is The Way.”  In it he wrote about “imagine cells.”  Imagine cells are the beginnings of the metamorphosis that takes place transforming the caterpillar to a butterfly.  Out of the “biological soup” develops imagine cells that have within them the DNA information for creating the butterfly.

I like to think that imagine cells are in each of us and are the metaphorical analogy for what the individual can do to contribute to world peace.  We begin by creating our own inner peace.  When we mature as humans, we can develop personal inner peace by modifying our brain patterns by focusing on (and practicing) new thoughts, images, and language patterns.  In the book Total Life Coaching, I defined “success” as “any state of being with which you are content.”  Combining the two ideas of success and imagine cells, I think that in order for any individual, community, society or culture to be successful long-term, they must learn inner peace, they must be peacemakers, they must cope with conflict in a non-violent way, they must use the methodology of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, service, they must view every life as equally valuable as their own, and they must teach collaboration and cooperation.

To contribute to societal peace, we must relinquish our attitudes about “nationalism.”  Albert Einstein once said, “Nationalism is the cancer of humanity.”  Chopra wrote, “…nationalism, ecological abuse and religious fundamentalism are the basic blocking forces to peace.”  To me, these forces are the current dynamics that form the basis for war.

In his book, “Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You,” author, Dan Riskin, explores how all “living things are trying to [attack us], eat us, poison us, use our bodies as their homes, or have us spread their eggs.”  It seems that what we call “death” is absolutely necessary for regeneration.  Birth and death are universal life experiences.  Pablo Picasso wrote, “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”  It seems that what William Makepeace Thackeray wrote, “Life is the soul’s nursery—its training place for the destinies of eternity” is probably accurate.  Perhaps wars and disease are necessary for a new world-culture to emerge like the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.  Chopra wrote: “Thank God for death.”

My own thinking: After 26 years of civil war, the people of Angola (leaders who were schooled in the Christian missionary schools) are focused not on revenge (they do not complain about past government power and control), rather on “reconciliation.”  Only through forgiveness and reconciliation can a governmental power be dissolved, thus bringing about a new and peaceful revolution which is regenerative…and “service to others” is the pathway. “The measure of life is not its duration but its donation” —Peter Marshall.

British historian, Lord Acton, coined the now-famous phrase, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Yet, we still hold up “power” (and its attainment) as a virtue.  We still believe that “Winning is everything.”  Winning through the use of power and force is considered to be the best way to evolve.  What stupidity!  Usually, the oppressed, when they win power, become like the very people against whom they have rebelled.  The most powerful alternative to force, coercion and violence are the basic tenants of most religious faiths.  Love is the most powerful force in the Universe.  It is non-corrupting.  It is the ultimate peace.  It is the only necessary force for creation and evolution.  It is the only viable method and foundation for world peace.  I agree with Henry Van Dyke when he wrote, “There is only one way to get ready for immortality, and that is to love this life and live it as bravely and faithfully, and cheerfully as we can.”

I close with the thoughts Steven Levine expressed in his poem:

“In sending love to ourselves,

we send love to all.

In sending healing we are healed.

Like birth or illness or old age,

death is just another event along the way.

                                                  —From: Healing Into Life And Death

As we cope with the current COVID-19 pandemic, I hope you find the above thoughts relieving, comforting and possibly useful as you think about peace.


Robert N. Meroney, Ph.D. is a Rotarian and an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University. He can be reached at Robert.Meroney@ColoState.EDU

Before you can create Peace, you must agree as to what it means.  Etymology is the study of the origin or history of words, a translation of the Greek roots of “etymology” would be the “study of or sense of truth”.  Anyone interested in peace is certainly concerned about truth which must underly its use and meaning.

The historical roots of the word Peace are the Latin “pax” or the Anglo-French term “pes” which have the synonyms harmony, tranquility, serene, calmness, completeness, wholeness,  quietude, concord, amity, and almost 80 other words commonly used in English.  Antonyms for Peace might be conflict, confrontation, discord, noise, strife, trouble, and war.

In Christian tradition the word Peace is a translation of the Hebrew word shalom, of the Arabic salaam.  It came into common use from about 1300 AD as a form of personal greeting.  But shalom or salaam also held wider meanings like justice, good health, safety, wellbeing, prosperity, equity, security, good fortune, and friendliness.  Peaceful behaviors require that one is kind, considerate, respectful, just, and tolerant of others’ beliefs and behaviors.  Also, historically important is that at a personal level Peace originally included the acts of reconciliation and agreement.

Not only can Peace be active between individuals and groups, it can also represent the state of personal contentment and satisfaction.  Inner peace or being at peace in one’s own mind reflects calmness, contentment, and tranquility…an absence of irritation, disturbance, or agitation.  Some would argue that it is difficult to propagate peace among others if one is not internally peaceful or satisfied with oneself. 

Sadly, there are also more negative interpretations of Peace.   Since classical times, it has been noted that peace has sometimes been achieved by the victor over the vanquished by the imposition of ruthless measures.  Peace then becomes merely the absence of different opinions, debate, or alternate beliefs. 

A picture containing cat, person, sitting, playing

Description automatically generatedAl Capp, the creator of the cartoon character Lil Abner, conceived of an alternative character or villain known as “Smilin’ Zack”, a cadaverous, outwardly peaceable mountaineer with a menacing grin and an even more menacing shotgun.[1] He preferred things “quiet” and “peaceful”. A close up

Description automatically generated(Real quiet, that is — not breathing or anything.)   He obtained peace and quiet by eliminating any bird, animal, or person who caused noise or disturbance.

Our Peacebuilders fellowship are not interested in the definition of Peace as the absence of disagreement, difference of opinions, or slavish agreement.  We hope for a world in which differences can be resolved by reconciliation, acceptance, forgiveness, and restorative justice, and we have Peace as a deliberate choice of love for one another.

Planning and Decision-making Hexagon and a Context for Learning and Actions about Civility and Peace

Del Benson, Ph.D. is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management.  He can be reached at Delwin.Benson@ColoState.EDU

People have many reasons for conflicts.  Likewise, civil and peaceful solutions should bring many disciplines together to solve problems with people.  My “Planning, Policy, and Action Hexagon” that follows identifies key considerations that affect how people interact.  Providing logic or solutions for one side of the hexagon are not adequate when other sides are affected.

Decisions are made from many different factors, interests and considerations.  The hexagon represents categories for most of our reasoning.  Too often, we try to solve problems from within one of the sides rather than linking all sides into holistic problem solving. Apply learning and actions from all disciplines when you are investigating and solving problems with people. 

Multi-dimensional parameters exist from which one’s world view is formed and within which learning, teaching, leadership, communications, and behaviors must relate.  For people to civilly interact, to change, to adapt, to practice good behaviors, and to be more peaceful, their multiple life-contexts must be addressed.  The decision-making hexagon provides an illustration of multi-disciplinary parameters that should be addressed in an interdisciplinary manner when exploring problems and when finding solutions. 

Contexts of the Hexagon include:

1. The earth’s physical and biological systems without which nothing functions properly;

2. Economics (money and trade) regulates the exchange of goods and services;

3. One’s personal psychology, personality, wants, needs, coping skills, and “investment” in the issue;

4. The norms of the group, society and cultures which enable or restrict the actions of individuals and the groups;

5. Power structures through laws and political systems that protect or suppress the rights of individuals and society; and

6. Implementation logistics with benefits or barriers that are affected by technologies, skills, and administrative authorities that arenecessaryto perform desired tasks.    

More about the Hexagon

Peace builders should understand each parameter, make integrated decisions, and help others.

The earth and biosphere have physical and biological attributes and limitations that function as one living organism.  Each part of the earth is impacted by bio/physical processes in an interrelated web of life and death that is complex and dynamic.  From the standpoint of our biosphere, there is no right and wrong, only change.  We should develop a sense of ecological place within and among societies by lessening our disconnection from nature and apply pertinent and factual considerations from various ecological disciplines.  Perhaps ecology is the discipline which can most logically, but not entirely, influence positive long-term thinking since it integrates many other disciplines within the environment.  However, tensions are caused when environmental resources are not available for use.

Society uses economics (money and trade) to exchange goods and services.  Individual and group needs depend upon exchanging natural resources directly or on the products derived from bio/physical resources and human ingenuity.  Decisions about money or trade are often at the forefront of conflicts and must be considered in civil discourse when seeking peace.

Because humans are part of the earth’s living system, they are personally impacted by and cause impacts to the system.  Humans have needs for survival, security, personal expression and personal worth.  They desire use of the world’s resources and in so doing make lasting impacts.  Individuals may be optimistic or pessimistic, conservative or liberal, conservation-minded or exploiters.  Their personalities are formed by many primitive and modern experiences.  Humans can accept or reject civility and peace simply because they choose to.

Individuals form into groups and societies with unique norms and cultures.  Race, religion, ethnicity, gender, skills, professions, politics, and education are some of the linkages which help to expand or limit thinking and behavior.  Groups can encourage or suppress individual thought and action.  Actions by groups can help or hinder civility and peace.

Society functions formally through legal and political systems where heads of families, local chieftains, committee chairs, and national leaders rise to power and reflect norms or help to establish new norms.  Persons in political power protect, suppress or lead what individuals and societies can do for civility and peace.   

Within all systems of the hexagon there are logistical limitations to what can be known, expected, or acted upon about civility and peace.  In human systems, there are barriers caused by the level of individual and group skills, how opportunities are administered by leaders and whether appropriate technologies are developed and available.  Peace is not possible and civil actions are not practiced when one lacks appropriate skills, if one’s supervisor does not allow action, or if there are no known solutions at the time.

Put the Hexagon to Work

Getting everyone involved to think and act constructively as illustrated by the hexagon are the objectives for civility and peace.  Nurturing persons’ thoughtful interest and acceptable behaviors are not easy because they are impacted differently by each parameter of the hexagon.


William Timpson, Ph.D. has been a professor at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. He can be reached at

As disruptive and destructive as they are, wars, conflicts and health crises can create opportunities to rethink, reassess and innovate. In Northern Ireland, a number of successful efforts emerged from the European Union’s creation of a fund for initiating peace and reconciliation projects that, it was hoped, could become self-sustaining after an initial five years of seed funding. In my time there I was able to examine the peace process still holding after the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended centuries of conflict and violence that began with British colonization and exploitation. We can only hope that these kinds of grass roots community efforts could be models for other nations like Burundi that are struggling to emerge from years of disruptions.

         In this photo, different neighborhoods murals of paramilitary forces, either Protestants loyal to the United Kingdom or Catholics in the I.R.A. (Irish Republican Army), define de facto security, those who may be in control behind the scenes.  
In the photo above and a short walk away from this mural is the innovative “start-up” carpentry business T.R.E.E.—Timber Recycling Eco Enterprise—that received five-year start-up funding to address three ambitious sustainable peacebuilding efforts: (1) Converting wood from building sites that was destined for the landfill and create objects for sale to the general public (e.g., toys, stools, games); (2) training young people, especially those unemployed male youth who are too often the targets for paramilitary recruiting, in “green” carpentry skills; and (3) having Protestant and Catholic youth work side-by-side and thereby “deconstruct” the hatred, stereotyping and prejudice that each had been taught about the “other.”

In another example of post-conflict innovation, the nation of South Korea has invested in structures that they believe will nurture creativity among its citizenry. Could nations like Burundi utilize a similar state investment to propel itself and its citizens in new and productive pathways out of poverty and towards a more sustainable and inclusive economy that also promotes caring and compassion for everyone?

  In this photo, Seoul’s ddp—Design Development Center—identifies the national commitment in support of synergy, initiative and innovation. Over the past 70 years, South Korea has produced the world’s fastest rise out of the poverty and destruction of war of any nation on earth to become a developed high-income country.  

In Israel and Palestine, another area of historic conflicts and violence, we see a grassroots example of sustainable peacebuilding that could also be a model for a nation like Burundi. What was once an abundant olive grove was bulldozed by Israeli military forces because of its strategic value despite the clear documentation of ownership by a Palestinian family dating to a time long before the creation of Israel itself. Now with contributions from a world-wide effort to support its new mission of promoting understanding between former enemies, in particular, the Tent of Nations can serve as a model for converting a violent past into a peace loving present.

    In this photo, the Tent of Nations represents efforts by a Palestinian family to convert its olive farm into an international center for promoting sustainable peace building across deep divides and historic enemies. Committed to “People Building Bridges” an engraved rock outside the fence proclaims that “We Refuse to be Enemies!”

Follow the Finns for innovation and inclusive prosperity

In Learning Ife’s Lessons (2019), I draw the following historical reference: The Treaty of Versailles brought an end to World War I between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on the 28th of June in 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that had sparked five years of brutal bloodshed across Europe with over 18 million dead and 23 million wounded. The treaty forced Germany to disarm, make territorial concessions, and pay reparations. While some claimed that this treaty was too weak, many historians believe that its punishing terms were unsustainable and soon led to a chaos that a Hitler and the Nazis fed on to grab power on promises of returning Germany to its military greatness. Could the tragic consequences that followed in World War II have been avoided with a more inspired and sustainable treaty that recognized the interconnections between the health of the economy, society and the environment?

In our 2016 book, 147 Tips for Teaching Sustainability, my colleagues and I point out the following. “In an analysis of the successes of the Finnish people in crafting government policy that requires heavy taxes but ensures a healthy foundation for ongoing innovation, Peter Ford (2005, “Egalitarian Finland Most Competitive, too,” Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 26.) describes their collective belief: “High level education is the key to what Pekka Himanen, a brilliant young philosopher who advises the Finnish government, calls his country’s ‘virtuous circle.’ ‘When people can fulfill their potential, they become innovators…. The innovative economy is competitive and makes it possible to finance the welfare state, which is not just a cost, but a sustainable basis for the economy, producing new innovators with social protection.’ In the end, says Jorma Sipila, the Chancellor of Tampere University, Finland’s inclusive social model is its best guarantee for the future. ‘The conditions for a flourishing economy are so demanding that the state has to make social investments to raise competent people and take care of dropouts so that they carry their share of the burden.’… Marrying prosperity and social protection is the only sustainable future” (6–7).

The questions we now ask are these? How could other communities build on these models of innovation to recover from a violent past and move into a more sustainable and peaceful future?


See the RI website: If you would you like to respond to one of the pieces in this newsletter, check out our blog and join the conversation! If you would like to contribute to a future newsletter, visit You can find some of our past issues at the Rotary District 5440 website: Future issues may explore the following: NOVEMBER—(Timpson) A Peace Park and Peacebuilder’s Trail. DECEMBER—(Timpson) Transforming Conflict.

If you have ideas for future topics, please send them to any of our writers.


[1] Smilin’ Zack was a secondary character in the satirical comic strip Li’l Abner.



SEPTEMBER 2020        NUMBER 37


William Timpson, Robert Meroney, Robert Lawrence, Del Benson

and Lloyd Thomas, Fort Collins Rotary Club, and

Paul Gessler, Fort Collins Chapter of Veterans for Peace

In these newsletters of the Rotary District Peacebuilders, we want to invite readers for contributions and ideas, suggestions and possibilities for our efforts to promote the foundational skills for promoting peace, i.e., nonviolent conflict resolution, improved communication and cooperation, successful negotiation and mediation as well as the critical and creative thinking that can help communities move through obstacles and difficulties.


Lloyd Thomas, Ph.D. is a longstanding member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club, a licensed psychologist and a life coach with a long history of writing regular columns. He can be reached at

In the last few months, the topic of “civility” has filled our news stories, our political discussions and even our behavioral protests.  What is civility?  How is it expressed?  Of what value is it?  What does incivility mean?  How can civility be taught?  How can civil discourse contribute to the development of a civil (peaceful?) society?  Recently, such questions have been raised in response to the pandemic, to the civil unrest in our streets, even to our political discourse and our electoral processes.

 The issues around today’s civility are much more complex than politeness or good manners.  And they are not new.  Even George Washington, at age 16, wrote about civility in his 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.  His first rule was, “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”  Certainly today, respect for others remains a critical aspect of what we mean by civility.  In his book, Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy (1998) Harvard law professor, Stephen Carter, writes that “[civility is] An attitude of respect, even love, for our fellow citizens.”   Such respect is first learned through the language and behaviors exemplified by parents and teachers of children.

The acquisition of language is the result of complex learning by imitation and repetition.  It is the habitual attribution of meaning to the sounds made by parents in association with environmental events.  Learning language is a natural, human skill and all babies are born with the ability to learn it.  All children, no matter which language their parents speak, learn a language in the same way.   Research has shown that babies begin to learn language sounds even before they are born.  This means that at this stage infants can learn any language that they are exposed to. Gradually babies figure out which sounds they are hearing the most.  If what they hear is loud, angry, demeaning, humiliating, degrading, vulgar or racist, they will learn to speak in the same way using the same words.  Their discourse becomes uncivil.  Conversely, if they hear words that are

comforting, gentle, caring, encouraging, supportive and respectful…they will learn the language of civility…even love.  So “civility” can be defined as the common language for communicating respect for one another.

The capacity to engage in civil discourse exists in all human beings.  It is critical to the development of healthy interpersonal relationships and reflects our ability to connect with other human beings by verbally and non-verbally sharing our ideas, opinions and feelings.  It is essential for us to establish and maintain positive interpersonal interactions with others, thereby getting our needs met, developing our human potential, remaining safe in our environment and being able to give and receive compassionate (empathic) behavior.

Nicole Billante and Peter Sounders live in Australia.  They have co-authored a commentary in the Australian magazine, Poliev (vol. 18. no. 3), titled Why Civility Matters.  They write, “Contemporary confusion over the informal rules of social interaction goes to the heart of what it means to be a citizen in a free and open society.”  They offer three reasons why civility is essential to a democratic way of life: Civility is a moral virtue; Civility aids social cooperation; and Civility is the desirable alternative to repression.  They write, Civility is a good in and of itself: …Being civil towards others is part of being a good and moral person.  More specifically, it signals to other people our willingness to obey shared rules and to regulate our behavior so as not to undermine their well-being.”  Even Stephan Carter (above) agrees with them when he writes, “how we should treat our fellow citizens is independent of the question of how we feel like treating them.”  Our democratic values should be reflected in our civil discourse with our fellow citizens.  Values such as: “all persons are equal under the law” and should be treated that way; and in our democracy, “no one is above the law” no matter what position is held in our country.

 Billante and Sounders’ second reason for civility is its effective aid to “social cooperation.”  “…we need to be civil to each other if social life is to function efficiently and with a minimum of unnecessary conflict and disruption. …A spirit of mutual cooperation and ‘give-and-take’ enables us to get more done more efficiently than when people have to be monitored, regulated or coerced.”  We are much more creative, attain greater goals and are much more successful at keeping our freedoms when we converse and cooperate with one another in a civil manner.

Their third reason for civility is that it “is the desirable alternative to repression.”  They write that the reason we “should take civility seriously is that the self-regulation it demands of people is all that stands between us and increasing coercion by the state.”  They quote Edmund Burke who wrote in 1791, “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their own disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites.”  Unless we want the law or the state to intervene in our lives, we need to recognize the truth of what my father taught me: “…your freedom ends where my nose begins.”  This answers the question of how far and how well our individual liberties are to be restricted or restrained.  Billante and Sounders describe this dynamic this way: “In liberal-democratic capitalist societies, individuals legitimately pursue their own self-interest through two spheres of power—the market economy and the political system.  Both offer ways of aggregating individual interests into collectively-binding outcomes…”  Civil discourse enables people to agree on what actions result in fulfilling both individual interests and addressing “the common good” of any society.  Only in civil discourse can both be kept in balance.

Finally, I want to share a quotation from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments,”  which he wrote in 1759: “When the happiness or misery of others depends in any respect upon our conduct,

we dare not, as self-love might suggest to us, prefer the interest of one to that of many. . . .One individual must never prefer himself so much even to any other individual as to hurt or injure that other in order to benefit himself, [even] though the benefit to the one should be much greater than the hurt or injury to the other.”   Clearly, the key to a civil society lies in not only the actions but also in the language we use while interacting with each other in ways that neither hurt nor injure any other of our fellow human beings.


Del Benson, Ph.D. is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management.  He can be reached at Delwin.Benson@ColoState.EDU

Justice represents honest communications, fair behaviors, ethical treatment, peaceful outcomes, and genuine respect for people.  Justice is part individual actions and incorporated into society’s codes of conduct, laws, and practices of governments. Manners are what individuals learn at home, school, and in their communities that enable them to function with acceptable actions as part of their society. Normative behaviors are not the same for all peoples, places, and times.

Civility describes a citizen with orderly behavior. The sense of politeness arose in language during the mid-16th century.  Of course, not everyone is a citizen. Order takes many forms.  Politeness has different meanings around the world. Interacting thoughtfully with others is important and civil.

I usually equate lessons from animals and the environment with how people might behave, but justice, manners, and civility are human constructs that primitive animals have not and cannot comprehend nor help to educate humans.  Humans with advanced brains for communication, keeping records, and planning for futures are in a different category than other animals.  Humans form standards for reasoning, educating, and behavior that are communicated to others over generations.  Other animals lack this sophistication.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, acceptable actions change in space and time. Thoughtful persons continuously work to improve their actions and words that describe acceptable behaviors to others.  Societies should advance with time on this finite planet, but conflicts over land, people, and ideologies resurface over time.

History teaches about conflicts and change.  Psychology and Sociology help us to understand why. Education is our means to learn about becoming more just, mannerly, and civil. Everyone is correct from their perspectives according to Chris Maser in Resolving Environmental Conflict Second Edition. Chris Maser and Carol A. Polio (CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 241 pp).  Managing conflicts and resolving correctness are not easy processes; thus, persons can become embroiled in debate, controversy, and conflict over their perspectives and the words used to describe them.

A fun little book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, simplifies very complex reasons to be just, mannerly, and civil with others.  If only the world could live by these simple ideas.

  1. Share everything.
  2. Play fair.
  3. Don’t hit people.
  4. Put things back where you found them.
  6.,204,203,200_.jpgDon’t take things that aren’t yours.
  7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat.
  9. Flush.
  10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  12. Take a nap every afternoon.
  13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
  14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – “LOOK.”

Justice, manners, and civility start with the willingness to “LOOK,” to seek, to understand, and to appreciate interests and needs of others. Playing fairly with others can result.

Use diplomacy before aggression to communicate human interests and the messages are heard with less conflict. Fulghum’s simple principles can be elaborated upon and applied to environments and people most everywhere if there is a willingness to try.   When in the world of conflict and opportunity, watch out for the traffic of injustice, use your manners to help each other, and hold hands in civility.


Robert N. Meroney, Ph.D. is a Rotarian and an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University. He can be reached at Robert.Meroney@ColoState.EDU

Robert Lawrence, Ph.D. is a Rotarian and an Emeritus Professor on Political Science with an equally long career at Colorado State University. He can be reached at Robert.Lawrence@ColoState.EDU)

Civility should be an aspiration of individuals, groups, politicians, and nations.  It is the glue in communications that make exchange of ideas and opinions work.  It is absolutely essential for love between persons, successful diplomacy between nations, compromise among politicians, and

peace building.  Civility comes from the word civis, which in Latin means “citizen”, and it implies behavior befitting a citizen.  Civility is often proposed as the way we protect diversity as well as active disagreement in the public sphere.  So why are so many relationships among people and nations broken?   Who are those who practice “uncivil” behavior?

Civility is used by people in different ways, often it is used constructively and may be the foundation of tolerant societies, but sometimes accusations of uncivility are used as a weapon to discredit the person or group with which one disagrees.  Nobody believes they are uncivil…it is always the other guy.  But listen to the words spoken by many Democratic and Republican political leaders, proponents of different religions, Eastern and Western heads of state, or even worse, yourself!  If one pays attention carefully to the choice of words by some so-called civility protagonists, it is something more sinister–a covert demand for conformity that silences dissent.  The implication is that if you disagree with the speaker you are, by definition, promoting uncivil behavior.  Thus, such civility is often essentially a sham, bullshit, or a way to be self-righteous and paint the opponent as unrighteous and unreasonable.[1]

Sir Winston Churchill said, “Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”[2]  The mere act of disagreement to such people can be offensive and intolerable.  The other is being bigoted, stupid, or even insane, and his/her opinions seem an insult to the individual.  How can one then be pleasant when talking about race, religion, politics, etc.  without hate, violence, or destruction of peace?  It is all too easy for each side to call the other “uncivil” and claim the moral high ground.  (Here are links to two examples with opposing accusations of false civility.) [3], [4]

Throughout history many nations have acknowledged the importance of effective communication.  We should be very proud that the United States stressed from the very beginning that through the First Amendment to the US Constitution in 1791 freedom of speech is assured.  Similarly, England’s Bill of Rights in 1689 legally established the constitutional right of freedom of speech in parliament.  The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which was adopted during the French Revolution in 1789 affirmed freedom of speech as an inalienable right.  John Stuart Mill’s book On Liberty published in 1859, argued freedom of speech was the first in importance of the three basic liberties.   Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nations states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, expression without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart such opinions through any media. 

But it was also generally recognized that such a freedom imposes responsibilities that avoid obscenity, libel, incitement to violence, the right to privacy, and dignity, i.e.…Civility.  Realistically, for people to “listen” to free speech the speaker must practice discretion, acceptance of alternative viewpoints, and respect for other’s right to speech and person, i.e… Civility.  Yet at the same time both still retain the right to identify speech they think is dangerous or wrong.   Civility should not

mean self-suppression of opinions to avoid unpleasantness.  That would be “fake civility.”

Again, civility is what allows a tolerant society to live with disagreements, but it does not mean that differences of opinion should just be unspoken or identified.   Civility is very very difficult to maintain, it takes courage and must be practiced face to face despite the possible unpleasantness of the subject matter.

Author Teresa Bejan suggests that we should instead try for “mere civility”:  the virtue of being able to disagree fundamentally with others without destroying the possibility of a common life tomorrow.[5]   Civility thus requires that difficult topics be spoken in terms that express opinions without straying into expressions which are “unforgiveable.”  Again, this can be very difficult when opinions are held fervently. 

There are techniques to avoid escalation of disagreements and maintain “mere civility”, for example:

  • Avoid the use of the pronoun “you” when expressing opinions that tend to assign blame,
    • Say “Those words make me uncomfortable…” rather than “You are a bigot…”,
    • Say “Have you considered these alternatives…”  rather than “You are wrong…”,
  • Avoid flaunting “symbols” of disagreement that cause emotional responses and destroy communication before discussions even begin,
    • Confederate or Nazi flags, images of burning crosses, blackface makeup, hangman’s noose, etc. or
    • Anthems or music that denigrate the opponent positions,
  • Avoid insulting labels or abusive ad hominem arguments that demean the opponent,[6], [7]
    • Designating an opponent as a member of the law firm: Lyin’, Liddle, Sloppy, Sneaky, Crazy, Crooked and Pocahontas is not helpful, or
    • Distorting other’s names into swear words: Rep. Adam Schiff to “little Adam Shitt.”[8]
  • Practice active listening, do not interrupt, allow the other speaker to complete their thought,[9] and
  • Do not accept “uncivil”, rude, or hateful behavior in others as normal.

Finally, it is worth noting that sometimes there is no intention or effort made to establish civil discourse, arrive at compromise, or avoid confrontation.  History is full of political opponents who determine they are better served by destroying their enemy using any means available including distortion, exaggeration, emotional context, photoshopped content, fearmongering, and even

falsehood.[10]  Political campaign ads using short video clips have become endemic in every election since 1964.  Such approaches are not appropriate if the intention is to achieve harmony as opposed to victory at any cost.

So, it is important to expect various roles for “civility” in public discourse.   Politeness, courtesy, and respect are never wasted effort.  It can be the willingness to agree to disagree during

communication even when stressful and engaging to curtail one’s own immediate self-interest to allow continued conversation.

Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged the importance of tension in disagreement to achieve justice.  “I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”[11]


William Timpson, Ph.D. has been a professor at Colorado State University in its School of Education and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club. He can be reached at

In Learning Life’s Lessons (2019) I make reference to January 1892 when Ellis Island opened to immigration providing a gateway that inspired millions of immigrants to leave their ancestral homelands, emigrate to the U.S. and escape from oppressive conditions in the hope of starting a new life. While life could be very difficult, new opportunities awaited for these immigrants as Native Americans were killed, pushed aside, or restricted to reservations and prime land was given to Homesteaders from Europe.With the right leadership, expectations about civility might have helped calm the conflicts. The following “Tip” is adapted from #2 in 147 Practical Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation.

Johan Galtung (1969, 1988) infused peace theory, or a set of principles that guide peace thinking and peace education practices, with the concepts of negative peace and positive peace. Negative peace can be understood as the absence of direct physical violence—war, domestic violence, etc. Positive peace can be understood as conditions without indirect violence—both a lack of trust, intimidation, the presence of fear, bullying, and conditions without structural violence. Educative efforts toward positive peace seek to build new macro-structural alignments that promote capacity, prosperity and happiness for all, as well as trust in peace, trust in relationships, hope, and reflection on positive conditions that create peace. 

The following activity provides an opportunity for people to reflect on past, present, and future conditions of peace, thus generating positive memories, present mindfulness, and future possibilities. Outside or in a large room, ask a group to form two circles with even numbers—one inner circle, one outer circle. People should stand face to face. Ask them to introduce themselves to their partner.

Use the following series of questions and time each question (about 3 minutes each) and then rotate. “Describe a peaceful time in your life.” After 3 minutes of back and forth discussion, ask the inner or outer circle to move one, two, or three people to the left or to the right; this promotes interaction with multiple members of the circle.

Then ask: “Describe a time when there was peace in your community, your nation, or the world?”

Then ask them to fill in the blank: “I currently find peace when ____; my community finds peace when_____; the nation ____; the world ____.” Finally, ask them to fill in the blanks: “I will find peace when____; my community will find peace when _______; the nation_____; the world____.” Debrief by identifying the conditions for peace from the personal to the global level; write them on a chart. 

Conscientious Objection is a way to say no to nukes

Paul Gessler is an Air Force veteran who was stationed in Wyoming at a missile site. He is the founder of the Fort Collins Chapter of Veterans for Peace and a frequent participant in the F.C. Rotary Club’s Peacebuilder Fellowship. He refers to himself as a conscientious objector to militarism.

A demonstration of a moral wound hampering our nation was self-evident on the 75th commemoration of the 2 atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Japan August 6th and 9th, 1945. In the ensuing 75 years it can be safe to argue that the United States has leveraged two anti-communist wars, an oil war and the present war on terror in quest to have what its war lords thought of as nuclear-leveraged world dominance. What was absent from the many commemorations surrounding the events, was the lack of acknowledgment that the use of and possession of nuclear weapons has accelerated America’s decline as a world power.  Could it be time to cash in nuclear weapons and make the world safe for civility?

Nuclear weapons are like a bigoted racist overlord. As easily as the government built and leveraged these weapons for world domination over the past 75 years, we the people can demand our government leverage these weapons to broker and insure the peace.  As we abandon nuclear arsenals our leaders will be able to return to the road of democracy and functioning government.  Where once existed lies, opinion, mistrust and division, we can easily build truth, verification and civil discourse.  But it takes an acknowledgment and a renunciation of racist brainwashing and propaganda that support the war footing. Nuclear weapons are illegal according to the Nurnberg war tribunals because they fit into the category of planned genocide. Conscientious objector status is a gentle declaration against racist militarism, symbolized by nuclear weapons.  Isn’t it time to give peace a chance?

August 28th is the 92nd anniversary of the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  Idaho Senator Frank Kellogg and French diplomat Aristide Briand wrote up a document outlawing war as an instrument of National Policy after the heinous slaughter of World War I. It was eventually signed by the United States, Soviet Union, Germany, and Japan. Great Britain had their empire and did not abide to the

pact.  Kellogg-Briand became the law of the United States by a vote of 85 to 1 in the same year.  Unfortunately, the United States violated its own law and seized the 2nd World War as an opportunistic road to assert its empire, albeit illegally.

One hopeful sign coming into play before the election is making the non-accountability practiced at the pentagon, accountable to the laws of our land. This epidemic of non-accountability has brought down the curtain where the wizard of total destruction is leveraging, with false privilege and arrogance to a virus.  One proven way to counter the effects of this militaristic, deep state of denial, is conscientious objector status.  Don’t fall into the propaganda trap! 

I invite veterans and their families to vote for giving peace a chance. We heal this deep moral wound affecting our nation by being accountable to each other, because we know the moral wound is too

great for just a few to bear the burden. For our civic and political leaders, I urge shaking off the dust upon the binding covers of the Kellogg-Briand pact law and act to boldly abolish nuclear weapons. We can all opt out of this unhealthy aggression and become conscientious objectors to the madness.   Warning:  sanity, peace and reasoned thought may happen.


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[1] Teresa Bejan, Is civility a sham?

[2] Sir Winston Churchill, Speech before U.K. Parliament on October 13, 1943, contained in Churchill By Himself, compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, RosettaBooks, Kindle Edition, 12 December 2013, 658 pp. 

[3] Henry Racette (2018), Pushing Back: True and False Civility,

[4] Chris Ladd (2018), The Tyranny of False Civility,

[5] Teresa Bejan (2019), Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, Harvard University Press, 288 pages.

[6] ZZ Packer (2018), When is ‘Civility’ a Duty, and When Is It a Trap?, New York Times Magazine,

[7] An ad hominem argument is one which uses a personal attack to replace logical argumentation unrelated to the truth of the debated issues.  This approach is generally considered a logic fallacy because it is usually irrelevant.

[8] Michael Burke (2018), Trump labs Schiff ‘little Adam Schitt’, The Hill,

[9] Interruptions are permissible in a “discourse” as opposed to a “harangue.” Interruptions should be constructive and limited to questions that continue discussion, interjections that relate to the subject, or alternatives that might expand the topic.

[10] Joanna Weiss (2020), What the Lincoln Project Ad Makers Get About Voters (and What Dems Don’t), Politico Magazine,

[11] Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963), Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Birmingham.html