Call it a brilliant PR move or hijacking the meaning of an important global initiative, Burger King got the world’s attention—and focused it, however briefly—on International Peace Day when it published an open letter to McDonald’s at the end of August. Appearing as full-page ads in The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune Burger King suggested “a cease-fire on the so-called ‘burger wars’” and a collaboration on September 21 to offer the world The McWhopper.
Cynicism aside (BK claimed they were making an effort to be “completely transparent”) their stated motivation was to “make history and generate a lot of noise around peace day.” Mission unaccomplished. McDonald’s declined the offer saying it thinks “our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference.” Why the McD camp saw this as an either/or situation instead of a yes/and moment (they didn’t suggest an alternative for what the “something bigger” would be) hasn’t been revealed. Although the fast food giants didn’t team up for a partnership for peace (the theme of this year’s observance) the rest of us can carry the torch and improvise how to live in the moment of unity in our own small ways.
Established in 1981 to coincide with the third-Tuesday-in-September opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, International Peace Day was first observed in 1982. Since then it has become a global initiative, annually commemorated to encourage unification of cultures, countries and races in the quest to strengthen collective ideas for peace. Significantly, in 2001 the General Assembly unanimously voted to establish September 21 as an “annual day of nonviolence and cease-fire.” The objective sends an invitation to all nations and peoples to collaborate on building a focus on and experience of peace.
Every year’s peace day observance forms around a different theme. The guiding idea for 2015, “Partnerships for Peace—Dignity for All,” designs a program to emphasize the necessity of all individuals in all societies to collaborate in creating peace. In a way this theme is an homage to the original concepts of the UN itself.
As their web site explains, “The work of the United Nations would not be possible without the initial partnerships that were active in its creation and the thousands of partnerships each year between governments, civil society, the private sector, faith-based groups and other non-governmental organizations that are needed to support the Organization in achieving its future goals.”
UN-affiliated messengers of peace include many familiar faces from the actors Michael Douglas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Charlize Theron to world-famous cellist Yo Yo Ma, internationally acclaimed author Paulo Coehlo, Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician Stevie Wonder.
Of course, you don’t have to be a world-famous fast food, artist or human rights advocate to do your part on International Peace Day. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your house. You can use your voice online to spread the word by posting UN-designed posters and postcards to your website and social media outlets. Alternatively, if you do feel like getting out into your community and participating in (or hosting your own) walk, workshop or other event there are many ideas from which to choose. The International Day of Peace website has a list of public events, plus a search function to find those local to you.
Although you won’t be able to chow down on a McWhopper this Peace Day the idea of partnerships—and how we can more frequently encourage them in both our personal and professional lives—transcends the world of PR gimmicks to sit on a much higher ledge of humanity: that place where we all remember that despite differing physical features, religious beliefs and individual philosophies we are all, in the end, the same.
We breathe, eat and sleep; love, live, laugh and cry; hurt, hope, dream and strive to feel good; to matter and create what we each define as a meaningful existence on earth. The partnerships we create to celebrate peace day can be just the beginning of collaborations that celebrate peace throughout the year; we can reciprocally support each other’s goals every day while simultaneously striving for communal goals the ensure the well-being of good people in every culture. The dignity of our planet as a whole begins with the honor and respect we have for one another’s safety, freedom and entitlement to experience life with a minimum of fear.
Let’s celebrate Peace Day together on Rewire Me: Share with me in the comments your ideas for promoting peace at home, at work and in the world at large.