Peace Polls as an Active Instrument
Reported by Alicia Wolverton
Photographed by John Joo
The George Fox University (GFU) campus is filled with symbols. From the new Alumni Bear to display cases filled with past memorabilia, meaningful items are not hard to find. But one important symbol is relatively understated: the Peace Pole.
Throughout campus, one will find four-sided wooden poles stating “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in four different languages. But why are they here?
Michael Caruso, a key leader in the Rotary peace movement, was a driving force behind their installation. After Newberg proclaimed itself as a “Rotary Peace City,” Caruso began speaking with the Parks and Recreation Department, the Newberg School Board, and the City of Newberg to see where Peace Poles could be installed and how many could be planted.
Caruso noted in an interview that Fred Gregory, assistant to President Robin Baker at GFU and member of the Rotary committee, wanted to bring the Peace Poles to campus.
“Our entire district did, I think, 130 or so, which is the biggest effort they’ve ever had anywhere,” Caruso stated. Between the Portland and Newberg campuses, GFU is responsible for five of those poles.
“About a week after we ordered the ones for George Fox, Fred said that that he talked to the powers at be and they want to make their own,” Caruso said. While the Peace Poles stationed throughout Newberg are white vinyl, “the ones you have here are made out of wood.”
Because of the significance of completing a large project such as this, the Rotary created a booklet to inform the public of the history of the Peace Pole, where they are stationed in Newberg, and why they matter.
“A Japanese survivor of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima conceived of the idea of the peace pole in 1955. The first one was planted in Japan in 1977 and then the idea started to spread around the world,” the booklet states.
From the Allenby Bridge between Israel and Jordan to parks throughout Newberg, the Peace Poles have become a symbol installed to remember peace as an alternative to war.
For GFU, Caruso has some simple messages in mind as students pass the Peace Poles.
“They are meant to be an…active rather than passive instrument,” Caruso said, “a reminder to people of what peace is all about. We’ve got to change the conversation from war to peace.”
Since they were planted on Earth Day in 2017, the GFU Peace Poles have become a campus symbol dedicated to carrying the message of peace on earth, both here and abroad.