Author: John Darling
Since 1976, Mr. Darling has written and published numerous short stories, poems, and magazine articles. He has also written a play that was produced in Canada, and three books. One book tells about how bands were inspired to choose their stage names, and another is a cookbook compiled from his grandmother's favorite recipes. His third and latest book, Woman in Black,
is a collection of short stories written in a variety of genres. He also edits and publishes The Tower,
an online literary and arts magazine, at www.theivorytowerzine.com
. Mr. Darling lives in Ventura, California, with his family.
The Professor of Peace
It is the first Thursday of the month, so William “Bill” Hammaker makes his way to the front of the gathered members of the Democratic Club of Camarillo (CA).
He will give his “two minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less” talk on the subject he knows best, the subject of peace. He is the group’s designated Peace Promoter, so this is his duty. But more important to him, it is also his pleasure and passion to carry out this assignment since he has been an active and articulate purveyor of peace for over 70 years. Just because he is currently 99 years old does not mean that he will be slowing down any time soon.
Today, the subject of war versus peace is one that rages across America, dividing us as a nation while causing conflict and strife even among family members. But in Mr. Hammaker’s view, all of this could be avoided if we all agreed that peace is the best path to follow. Unlike so many others, his belief did not spring up with America’s incursion into Iraq, nor did it sprout from our costly involvement in Vietnam or Korea. His convictions predate all of these conflicts.
Seventy-three years ago, in 1936, he recalls giving a speech about peace while standing on the steps of Gilman Hall at Johns Hopkins University, where he was working as the Executive Director of the student YMCA. His speech was not a reaction to the rumblings of a war in Europe that the American people were hearing about at that time. Instead, he stood on those steps to make his pitch for peace because he believed it to be the only way to live, a certainty he still has to this day.
His growing interest in the peace movement was spurred on after reading the 1930 seminal book, The Fight for Peace,
by Devere Allen. The book outlines the work of the peace movement from its beginnings to that date. After reading the work, Mr. Hammaker became a lifelong disciple of the movement.
To satisfy this “passion for peace,” he joined The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) over seven decades ago. FOR officially began its work in 1915, but its idea sprung from a chance meeting a year earlier that took place in a railroad station somewhere in Germany. Henry Hodgkin, an English Quaker, and Friedrich Sigmund-Schultze, a German Lutheran, had been attending an ecumenical conference in Switzerland. The conference attendees sought ways to prevent the start of World War I, but before the conference ended, war had broken out.
Undaunted, and despite the fact that their countries were at war with each other, the two men pledged to work together for peace. Within a year's time, FOR was established. Its mission: the replacement of “violence, war, racism, and economic injustice, with nonviolence, peace, and justice.” The group ultimately envisions a world of “justice, peace, and freedom” for all mankind.
Among the past members of FOR are Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, and Jane Addams. Current members include Bonnie Rait, Pete Seeger, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Dalai Lama, and, of course, William Hammaker.
Mr. Hammaker first came to Ventura County in 1945 while he and his wife, Twila, were on there way to Bremerton, Washinton, where he had been assigned the job of shutting down an industrial USO. They never reached their destination. When they passed through the small town of Piru, California, and smelled all the blossoming orange trees, they fell in love with the area. Mr. Hammaker was talented and fortunate enough to be offered the job of Director of the Ventura County YMCA, a position that he held for 23 years.
His next goal in life is to recruit 100 new members into FOR before his 100th birthday. Although he does not have an exact count at hand, he knows that he is well on his way to reaching his goal.
In 2006, Mr. Hammaker summed up his position on peace in the world in a letter to FOR’s national office. In it he said, “Our purpose, peace, is the best goal on our planet. In fact, if we fail to achieve it, nothing else would matter.”
People who are interested in helping Mr. Hammaker to work towards peace in our world are encouraged to contact FOR at www.forusa.org
, or call 845-358-4601 for more information. Be sure to tell them Bill sent you.