Remembering Elise Boulding, Peace Activist

A note from Katherine Johnson of San Francisco:

I became a big fan of Elise Boulding many years ago.  I always admired her pursuit of peace, and I've always felt we sure could use people like her today.  I noticed in her obituary that she ran unsuccessfully for Congress ... something I never knew about her.  What can you tell me about her campaign?  Where did she run and who did she run against?

Elise Boulding button

A Quaker who was born in Norway, Elise Boulding was a longtime leader in peace and peace studies, having taught at the University of Colorado and Dartmouth.  She was often referred to as the "matriarch" of the 20th Century peace movement.

In 1966, when she was living in Ann Arbor, she ran as a write-in candidate in Michigan's 2nd Congressional District.  In that contest, freshman Rep. Weston Vivian (D) would narrowly lose to Republican Marvin Esch.

Mary Lee Morrison, the president of Pax Educare, a resource center devoted to the research, study and teaching of peace, is the author of her biography, Elise Boulding: A Life In the Cause of Peace (McFarland, 2005).  Morrison writes that until '66, Boulding had been an active member of the Democratic Party, but she had "begun to see flaws in the party’s stance over the War in Vietnam."  She "believed that the party was not going far enough in denouncing the war. Because of this, she was persuaded by some co-workers in the party to create a major public debate on the war" by running as a write-in peace candidate.

Elise’s platform statement began by condemning the atrocities of the war such as the use of napalm, the support of a corrupt government in South Vietnam, and the destruction of homes and crops, which were taking resources away from needed social progress at home. Other things advocated were:

1. A program for the rapid withdrawal of all non-Vietnamese forces from the country and a return to the Geneva Accords of 1951, the right to self-determination by the Vietnamese people

2. The abandonment by the U.S. government of the “superpower” position and a return to a more modest role in the world community

3. A long-term program for a peaceful settlement of the existing tension, listing specific measures to be adopted, including supporting the role of China in the world community

4. A strong drive to abolish poverty and discrimination in the United States and the possibilities for each member of the world community to meet his or her potential.

Elise Boulding died June 24 at age 89.

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