Midland designated an International City of Peace

Midland recently became an International City of Peace, the 343rd city in the world to earn that designation. Houghton and Hancock are two other Michigan cities that have received this recognition.  

The International Cities of Peace website notes, “The ICP is an association of citizens, governments and organizations who have by proclamation, resolution, or by citizen advocacy established their communities as official Cities of Peace. Every community has a legacy of peace, whether it is by a historical event or by local peace heroes or groups who have contributed to their citizen’s safety, prosperity and quality of life.

No city is 100% a city of peace, rather all are on the path to 'becoming' a more peaceful city. Establishing a community as a peace city recognizes past achievements, encourages current initiatives, and inspires future generations for practical peacebuilding.”

One of, if not, the key leader in the peace movement in Midland is Jeanne Lound Schaller. The 75-year-old has strived and worked as a peacemaker for years.
She was raised on a farm in Shelby, Michigan as the middle of 11 children. She and her husband George moved to Midland 50 years ago. She says, “it has been a blessing in many ways to live here.”

Midland is one of 345 International Cities of PeaceThey have four children and three grandchildren, all of who live in Michigan, and three other “adopted” grandchildren who live in Malawi, Africa. In Midland, she met and learned from many people including Helen Casey, Ronnie McQuaid, Marge Darger and Dorothy Arthur, who were committed to helping build a more peaceful world for all.

Beginning in 2000, Schaller helped organize and led the Midland Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice that focused on the UN Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World; Helen M. Casey Center for Nonviolence; Choosing a Culture of Understanding with Christians, Muslims and Jews; and now leads the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) Midland Chapter, which raises awareness of NP’s international work to “Transform the World’s Response to Conflict.” 

She has also worked with the NP Teaching Team as part of Midland’s schools, including Freeland Elementary School to help students practice how to build a better school community for all. “I was never paid to work with any of those, but I became super-rich by going there and by working with many women and men who participated.” Schaller says she also holds a deep respect for Art Smith, Joy Arthur, Dick Skochdopole and Wally Mayton. 

Jeanne Lound Schaller says it’s an honor to share the award with the Midland community so they can further work to understand what peace means for the area.
Q: What do you want people to know about working toward peace for your community?  

A: Working toward peace in Midland will continue to happen by individuals, teachers, faith and spirituality groups, physical and mental health people, many other organizations and businesses, including the Midland Daily News, and city and county leaders who are committed to being Peace-Builders. Diversity, inclusion, equity, kindness, thoughtfulness and respectfulness become more alive through both little and large ways, from young kids to us elders. Day by day we can live more peacefully, by learning and talking about doing this and then choose to “walk the talk” each day all of our lives. No one is perfect, but we all have goodness to share. It’s significant that we are mindful that children will inherit the world, and we each are here to do our own part to build a more peaceful community and world for all.    

Q: How does it feel after all of the work to be given this award/designation?   
A: It feels delightful and hopeful.

Left to right: Maureen Donker, Kathy McCreedy, Gail Hoffman, Judy Timmons and Jeanne Lound Schaller.
Q: What does this award mean for the City of Midland?  
A: To me, Judy Timmons, Gail Hoffman and Kathy McCreedy —  Nonviolent Peaceforce Midland Chapter members who initiated this effort — this award means that Midland is committed to building a better and more peaceful community for all who live within the city and the county. This community’s vision statement is: 'Together. Forward. Bold. An exceptional place where everyone thrives.'

The City of Midland Proclamation that was signed on Sept. 13, 2021, agreed by Mayor Maureen Donker and the City Council  supported on Sept. 21 as the City of Peace Day and encouraged “citizens to foster positive expressions of peace, allowing humanity to flourish and providing avenues for more people to achieve their full potential.” Along with the recognition that WHO, the World Health Organization, defines health as a balance of physical, mental and social wellbeing, it continues: “Peace is a condition where society has achieved a balance of prosperity, security, justice and hope. And according to WHO, peace is necessary for everyone to achieve health.”

Q: What does Peace look like for the City of Midland?    

A: Several ways it can be seen and experienced is due to goals by 19 entities by which Midland has been and will continue to build connections for peacebuilding in Broader Midland: Nonviolent Peaceforce Midland Chapter, Midland Rotary, Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF), “We Hear You” Coalition, DEI -Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Advisory Group, Anti-Racist Midland, Midland Area Wellbeing Coalition, MACF Violence Prevention Partnership, Cultural Awareness Coalition, Midland Business Alliance, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, International Interfaith, MCFTA “Windows on the World”, Northwood University, Delta College, Global Peace Studies, Saginaw Valley State University, People to People, Chinese Culture Ongoing Program (CCOP).

Q: How can people move forward in their lives with more peace?   

A: People from young children to elders can speak kindly, behave respectfully, be mindful and helpful to others in need, work together to build peace in their neighborhood and in many other large or small ways. 

Q: Expand on that thought. What can a person do on a daily basis to promote peace (at school, work, home)?   

The City of Midland, Michigan has a peace heritage that reaches back more than 50 years,.A: At school. teachers can continue to be mindful of their actions and their training of all students about how to work together, educate them about the value of all students no matter their race, intelligence, age, grade etc.     
At work, leaders can set examples and require that those who work together must treat each other respectfully, even if they don’t always agree with each other.   

At home, parents set positive examples of how to live peacefully with themselves and with each other by helpfulness, encouragement and showing their love every day. 

Q: What is it about the city of Midland that stood out as a City of Peace?   
A: Part of the application to become a City of Peace was The Midland Peace Legacy which started by saying: “The City of Midland, Michigan, has a peace heritage that reaches back more than 50 years, that illustrate Midland’s early path on its journey.” In the 1960s, Helen M. Casey, Midland and Peace Activist, educated community members about the need for peace and nonviolence initiatives both locally and internationally. In 1998, the Midland County Gang and Violence Prevention Partnership educated community members about the need for peace and nonviolence with The Pledge of Nonviolence.

It is now known as the Midland Area Community Foundation Violence Prevention Partnership (VPP). Since its inception, roughly 12,000 students have been impacted each year. It recently held its annual planning meeting to “actively promote the safety and wellbeing of its citizens by preventing youth violence through awareness, education, collaboration and involvement.” In 2003, other Midland residents, including me, my husband George, and Marge and Dick Darger established and supported the Helen M. Casey Center for Nonviolence. That mission was “to promote the practice of nonviolence and nonviolent conflict resolution as a way of life at the personal, local, state and global levels.” The Nonviolent Peaceforce Midland Chapter (NPMC) — of which I am the leader — started in 2011. Our teaching team started working in schools in 2014 until the COVID-19 pandemic.

We hope to return next year to locally help transform the world’s response to conflict by helping students respond to conflict by helping students take steps to help build a better local community. NPMC and Midland Noon Rotary Club worked together to bring nonviolence trainers for adults and students. 

Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika has covered a wide array of topics in and around Midland and Saginaw counties. She’s an award winning reporter, and holds a journalism degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy/Marygrove College. When Erika is not writing, she enjoys dancing in her kitchen with her two dogs and family. She loves to read, cook, travel and go to concerts. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 26 years.