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Taking a Risk for Peace
by Tom Williams


I recently rode in an elevator in the National City Tower with our former mayor, Dave Armstrong. Since I know his son-in-law well, I asked about his family, and he proudly showed me a picture of his first grandchild, who was born just a few months earlier. He, in turn, asked about my year as LBA president, and I told him how much fun it has been to serve in this role. As he was leaving the elevator, he told me, “Don’t be afraid to take risks.” I didn’t quite hear what he said, so he repeated his statement right as the elevator door closed, “Don’t be afraid to take risks.”

Probably because of the source of advice, it really struck a chord with me. If you visit Fourth Street Live or the skate park, you know Mr. Armstrong’s legacy for risk-taking and its positive impact on our community. His grandchild will likely enjoy much of what he helped advance. Years earlier, some forward-thinking and community-minded people put together the Kentucky Derby—the signature event for our region. These collective decisions, many made long ago, helped shape who we are and who we are becoming.

With this in mind, I will go out on a limb this month, take a risk, and talk, just briefly, about an idea that I have shared only sparingly. Quite simply, the idea is to make the name “Louisville” synonymous with peace and conflict resolution—sort of the Geneva of North America. As you know, Geneva, Switzerland, is the home of the European Headquarters of the United Nations and many international organizations dedicated to peace. In my mind, Louisville is building a track record that supports a claim for a similar status in North America. Louisville is centrally located geographically and by population numbers. Geneva sells itself as centrally located in Europe. Kentucky was neutral during the Civil War, as was Switzerland during the European conflicts. While Geneva has the European United Nations Headquarters, Louisville has the Muhammad Ali Center, which was named after perhaps the most famous person of the 20th century and our hometown hero. As I understand it, the Ali Center is, in part, dedicated to peace and conflict resolution. The Festival of Faiths finds its home here as well. This singular event is unlike any other in the world and is about bringing faiths together in our own backyard. If you think about it, we might start to make a claim for the unique status of a peace-building community.

I am not aware of any other cities that strive to make this sort of claim. Would it be Dayton, Ohio? You will recall that the Dayton Peace Agreement, which was negotiated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995. The agreement is known as the Dayton Peace Accords. But an Air Force base is a launching pad for war, not peace. Given all the things that I have mentioned, why wouldn’t Louisville be uniquely positioned to host the next round of peace talks? I have to think that long, long ago, someone asked the question, why not hold the signature event in horse racing, “the greatest two minutes in sports,” in Louisville? Who is to stop us? With the proper momentum, we know that two minutes of racing can turn into so much more. In my view, recreating a “Geneva” in Louisville would require a limited infrastructure and would also have a positive business impact. If you research Geneva, you will see that it has scores of international organizations that call it home. If we provided tax incentives and a home for these places, Louisville could be a similar center. These international contacts would be great for our businesses that want to build and grow internationally.

Finally, how would the Louisville Bar Association fit into these plans? Lawyers are the gatekeepers for conflict resolution, international law and other peace initiatives. The LBA may consider carving out time and space for these types of endeavors if it is the will of the members. This, in my view, fits within our mission of promoting justice and respect for the law.

Who knows what the world will see in Louisville 50 or 100 years from now? I would imagine we will always be known for the first Saturday in May, but why not for also producing events of even greater consequence in the future by undertaking world-changing challenges? In analyzing that question on the basis of a risk-reward ratio, the risk seems well worth it to me.

Thomas M. Williams
President
Louisville Bar Association

600 W. Main St., Ste 110
Louisville, KY 40202-4917

Regional Collaborative Problem Solving Center
by Allan Weiss

Conflict is an integral part of growth and development. Properly managed, conflict can be transformed from a disruptive state to a catalyst that develops ideas and potentials to form mutually beneficial resolutions for all concerned.
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