A Memorial Service for John Wallach (1943-2002)
October 3, 2002 | United Nations, New York City
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
My dear friends, many people dream of peace in the world. Few devote their lives, hearts and minds to trying to make that dream come true. John was one of those few. John started literally with just the seeds of an idea, what he described as a “detox program” for the hatreds that often lead to violence and terror. And so began an initiative that allowed Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian youths to meet and learn and approach one another. The seeds began, and took hold, and the product grew to take in young people from more zones and conflicts and tensions. By now, Seeds of Peace has brought together youths from many regions, youths from all over the world: Bosnians and Serbs, Israelis and Palestinians, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and many others. Some of those young people are with us today. Their presence here speaks more eloquently than I ever could upon John Wallach’s wake.
But I will say that John’s leadership, commitment and compassion here are an inspiration to us all. I will say that his vision and work have an enduring relevance. The world badly needs examples like his, and that has never been more true than it is today. Death took John away at a time when peace seems painfully elusive in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, where he first began his Seeds of Peace. It is precisely because John had the courage to keep going, and because he knew that peace must begin with young people, who will reproduce the future itself. That his example is so important, nobody understood that better than John’s own family.
Janet, David and Michael, our thoughts and prayers go out to you today. John has left a legacy of wisdom and love that is a gift to us all. We will do our best to nurture it so that it keeps growing stronger every day.
Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan
Well, it’s an enormous privilege and a joy for me to be here today to celebrate the life and the simple-but-oh-so-powerful dream of a remarkable peace-builder. A dream that inspired and continues to inspire hope where it is most needed. A dream of reconciliation and peace, shared by so many in conflict-ravaged communities and the world, communities almost paralyzed by helplessness and despair of decades and generations of enmity.
And so for our children, for enabling them to discover, and reach out to one another, with loving pure hearts and minds, and to understand their power to transform one another, and history, thank you John.
For their families, for the hope that they have, that their children and grandchildren might live in more peaceful times of their own making, thank you John.
For urging the leaders of their communities and nations to listen to the honest voices of their young people, thank you, John.
And on a very personal level, with all my heart, for the reinforced confidence, idealism, optimism and hope my husband felt every time he met with you Seeds, or witnessed their courage and passion for peace, thank you, John.
May you both continue to inspire us to hold to the dream.
Dr. Henry Kissinger, Former Secretary of State
I met John during the shadow that followed the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. At that time, Israelis and Arabs were not talking to each other, and I had to carry messages from one to the other, and if it did not work properly, I would be blamed by each side for not having delivered the message appropriately.
But John on this trip, and on many of the subsequent ones, reflected commitment, and a dedication, and a faith, which was only the very beginning of a very incomplete process that meant an enormous amount to me. It was the time that America was divided over Vietnam and in the midst of Watergate. And the relations between journalists and officials could not be described as trusting. To meet a man of faith and dedication was an inspiration, though that is not the road that journalists generally assign themselves.
Some years later, John started the Seeds of Peace. For an historian and a diplomat, the proposition that improving relations among young people can solve problems that have proved intractable for decades sounds preposterous. And yet, every great achievement was somebody’s dream before it became a reality. John did me the honor of inviting me, on a number of occasions, to meet with the young people at Seeds of Peace. And I could see the possibilities, and experience, really more than see, the possibilities that his dedication created among them.
The great philosopher Emmanuel Kant wrote an essay in the 18th century, called Perpetual Peace. And he said that someday humanity will achieve eternal peace. It will come about either by human insight, or it will occur as a result of a series of catastrophes that will give mankind no other choice. What Kant wrote over 200 years ago remains our challenge today. We will achieve peace either by catastrophes or by insight. And John’s contribution will be that he provided the inspiration and the faith that is the necessary bridge between our reality and our hope.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Secretary Advisor
I knew two John Wallachs. Earlier this afternoon, I listened to John’s son describe how John did not make it in the acting school because someone had decided that his head controlled his heart. I knew two John Wallachs: one whose head controlled his heart, and the other, whose heart controlled his head. The first John I met shortly after entering government service in Washington. And he became one of the several key journalist with whom I would meet periodically. Whom I trusted. With whom I would discuss issues comfortably, knowledgeably, learning from them, and sharing my views them as well, with complete confidence and with complete trust, and with genuine political intellectual benefit.
John was one of them, and he struck me by his enthusiasm, his acute intelligence, his sense of responsibility, as well as his driving ambition. He was like many of us: he wanted to be something and to do something, and he lived in a very competitive Washington framework, in which he was a great and recognized success.
Some years after leaving government service, I got a phone call from John, asking me to help with his Seeds of Peace, to organize a fund-raiser in my house, which I was only too happy to do. And I saw much more of John in that setting as well. And this was a new John, building on the first John, exploiting his talents, but this was also a John who was extremely serene, genuinely happy, very fulfilled. And I sensed this on many occasions.
Of course the most dramatic one was the one when Rabin and Arafat shook hands at the White House and they mingled with the extraordinary group of young people. But there are many other occasions in which John spoke to me about his camp, about his undertakings, about his relationships with the young people, and particularly about the relationship between the young people. And I found that John was fulfilling something truly significant in his life, that a cause transcended him, thereby elevated him, in a way that can only be envied by others, because most of us truly want to be something, want to do something, but rarely get a chance to do something that is so powerful, so significant, so contagious.
And this was the John that I think reached the apex of his life, and while he did not live to see peace between Israel and Palestine, we all know it will come, we all know it has to come. We all know that someday Jerusalem will be a city of peace with two capitals. And probably, very probably, one of the streets lining the two capitals will be, should be, named after John Wallach.