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The Peace At Last Concert


On a beautiful summer evening, three and one half billion people from all over the world watched the Olympic representatives of 197 nations marched together for the opening of the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia.  The highlights of the pageant were many as Israel, Iran and Iraq all walked in the same parade of champions. 

South Africa was accepted back into the games; there was an incredible tribute to my dear comrade, Martin Luther King, Jr.; Celine Dion sang beautifully; and, Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Flame.  I say often we need a universal experience to feel the love and peace of one another and this was one of those times.

The first “Peace at Last Concert” took place at exactly midnight Greenwich Mean time, January 1, 2000 and did not have a stadium of spectators, for the stadium was only an open air spot near the banks of one of the world’s rivers.  There were no fireworks, but one candle lit for peace.  It did not have expensive sets or costumes, but only one Lily in the spotlight to symbolize the simplicity of peace.  As for the music that was a recording of one of the most beautiful collaborations of 19th century music to be found.  That piece was the Stephen Foster song “Old Folks At Home” (know the world over as “Swanee River”), and the Anton Dvorak symphonic choral version of that piece.  A Pittsburgh son, and a son of Czechoslovakia offering music to the world as a gift, just like the wonderful “New World Symphony” that Dvorak gave to the United States, and the other 250 songs Stephen Foster left for posterity.

Maybe someday at this Concert, Muhammad Ali would light the candle, Celine Dion would sing the Olympics number, “Awake, Awake” or we would simply just listen and sing along to John Lennon’s,  “Imagine”.  Maybe Maya Angelou would give us a poem, as we invite Nobel Peace Prize recipients or their families to recall some of the great peacemakers of all time. 

But activity is not the finale.  The finale is really in the silence, a beginning and an end, an Alpha and Omega, a Yin and Yang of experience.  The experience of Silence. 

Together as a world, weary of the battles of life and anxious for an Independence Day of the Spirit, we will breathe out into the Universe as One:

“Peace at Last, Peace at Last, Thank God, for Peace at Last!”