A Proposal and Call for Action to Create World Peace by 2050


Through Rotary International


by Dr. George Barkett


Member of the Rotary Club of Vero Beach , Florida

March 24, 2008


“Anger and hatred, arguments and differences, rivalries and quarrels are not inherited or innate. They are learned. Children who see hate, learn to hate. But children who see sharing and love, learn sharing and love.”

—Wilfrid Wilkinson, Rotary International President




I propose that Rotary International initiate an international songwriting contest called SONGS FOR PEACE.

Stated briefly, the international songwriting contest will start on the city level, with the winners progressing to the state, national and international levels.

By involving people throughout the world in composing songs about peace, voting for their favorite songs about peace and attending concerts of the world’s top musicians performing the winning songs, millions of people will be simultaneously focused on peace.



It started with a single monkey. In 1952, scientists observed a female monkey on the Japanese island of Koshima take a dirty sweet potato to a nearby stream and wash it before eating. She taught this new trick to her mother, and her playmates also learned and taught their mothers.

Then something startling happened. In the autumn of 1958, when the number of monkeys washing their sweet potatoes reached a critical mass of about 100, scientists observed that the entire tribe suddenly started to wash their sweet potatoes. And then the habit of washing sweet potatoes took a quantum leap—and was simultaneously observed in colonies on the mainland and other islands. It took a critical mass, the hundredth monkey, to make the change happen on a global scale.

While the exact details of this story, told in Ken Keyes’ book The Hundredth Monkey, may or may not be true, the underlying principle of a phase transition is found everywhere in nature. For example, a phase transition occurs when water is heated and suddenly starts to boil. Quantum physics describes how a phase transition can occur by the introduction of a small stimulus, as in the case of stimulated emission. Stimulated emission is the quantum principle behind laser light. A small number of atoms in the light become coherent, in phase with each other. When the number of atoms lining up in phase with each other reaches a certain critical mass, there’s a phase transition and suddenly all of the light becomes coherent. This is what creates laser light—a sudden phase transition in which a few atoms, reaching a certain threshold or critical mass, influence all of the atoms to line up in a coherent, powerful pattern.

How does this principle apply to world peace? Just as mob violence is created by a critical mass of angry people with angry thoughts, so peace can be created by a critical mass of people focusing on peaceful thoughts.

There is a saying, “What you put your attention on grows stronger in your life.” The power of attention is perhaps the greatest untapped power on earth. When the media is focused on peace, when the environment supports peace, more people will think about peace, desire peace, believe in peace.

There are many people of goodwill working toward peace today, including the million members of Rotary International, who are actively or passively working for peace. How much more effective their efforts would be if the number of people using their talents, genius and creativity for peace increased by 100-fold, or even 1000-fold? It is an obvious but powerful truth that the more people focused on peace, the greater the chances that conflicts could be avoided and greater peace and harmony achieved.

By enlisting thousands of creative and talented people, and by influencing millions more, SONGS FOR PEACE, an international songwriting contest, can become a tipping point, a way to focus more of the world’s energy on peace rather than conflict. A way to transform the dominant thoughts and influences of a nation from negative to positive, to create a consensus for peace. And when enough people focus on peace instead of war, on harmony instead of discord, love instead of hate, a sea change for peace can take place that will sweep the world.


Why the Rotary Club?

As Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations has said, “Rotary has the ability to organize campaigns to mobilize support for some of the worthiest causes that exist, and that makes Rotary a precious resource.”

One dramatic example of the power of Rotary Club to evoke change world-wide is its partnership in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative along with the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. Since its inception 20 years ago, the GPEI has been successful in eradicating 99% of the world’s polio cases. And in 2007, in 2007, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed an additional $200 million to eradicate the remaining 1% of existing polio cases in the four countries where the wild polio virus still persists: Afghanistan , India , Nigeria and Pakistan .

Thanks to the extraordinary dedication of Rotary members, millions of children have been saved from paralysis. This is truly one the most significant public health accomplishments in history.

On the basis of this extraordinary success, I propose that Rotary International take on an even greater challenge: saving children from the wars and conflicts that have plagued the history of every nation for centuries. Conflict is one of the reasons that children suffer from diseases such as polio. When countries are at war, sanitation systems, distribution systems, economic systems—all the infrastructure necessary to prevent epidemics—are destroyed.

It is the children who suffer most from war and conflict—and it is children who will benefit most from an initiative to create world peace. In April 2008, Rotary International is holding a conference specifically to discuss new initiatives for peace.

Just as Rotary International has inoculated the world’s children against polio, through the international songwriting contest SONGS FOR PEACE, it can inoculate the world’s children against the ravages of hate, prejudice, and religious intolerance. Clearly, a project of this scale is the next step for Rotary after its widely acclaimed success in eliminating polio in the world. Through the universal language of music, Rotary International can truly “make dreams real” for the world’s children.

As Rotary International President Wilfrid Wilkinson wrote in a recent issue of the Rotary Club Magazine, “anger and hatred, arguments and differences, rivalries and quarrels are not inherited or innate. They are learned. Children who see hate, learn to hate. But children who see sharing and love, learn sharing and love.”

These lessons are learned from the moment a child is born, forming beliefs or prejudices whether true or false, right or wrong, which become the guiding force in their lives and are passed to future generations. SONGS FOR PEACE is an effortless yet effective way to teach new beliefs about peace and brotherly love. If peaceful songs are played frequently, and the words promote a more peaceful, beautiful and loving world, the listener’s beliefs could be affected and conflicts avoided.

Mohandas Gandhi said, “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” Children hearing peaceful, enlightening music at an early age—even in the womb—could learn a different way of looking at the world. Music has been used to foster patriotism, prepare for battle, sell products, promote religion and to inspire love. Why not use the universal language of music to teach peace and brotherhood? Rotary International could use their widespread influence and resources to actively, gracefully and intelligently become a major catalyst for world peace. By creating a refreshing wind of change, SONGS FOR PEACE can create greater hope, charity, forgiveness, tolerance, peace and love for mankind.


Why Use Music as a Catalyst for Peace?

There are many reasons for using music as a catalyst for peace. Here are just a few:

1. Music has the power to unite. SONGS FOR PEACE can become a focal point for people of goodwill throughout the world, a way to unite countries even if they have a history of conflict. Just as the Olympics unites all peoples on the earth in the common cause of celebrating athletic virtues in a peaceful setting, so a world-wide song-writing contest can unite people from all nations.

2. Music has been called the universal language, because it speaks to everyone, no matter what language the lyrics. Every culture has used sound and rhythm to communicate since the beginning of history. Songs easily cross international borders, with songs and artists known all over the world. Music can provide a universal format for all the diverse voices for peace to unite into one powerful force to benefit mankind.

3. Research shows that peaceful sounds create peaceful influences. For thousands of years, cultures throughout the world have used the power of music to heal, to soothe, to create a harmonious environment. Modern research studies have shown that music can reduce stress, enhance immune system function, balance brain wave activity, reduce muscle tension, increase endorphin levels, and evoke feelings of love and inner peace.

As just one example, a study by Rasmussen, S., et. al in 1990 showed that when traditional Indian music was played, the activity of the brain became more integrated, with an increase within the Theta range, corresponding to feelings of peace and inner happiness.

4. A melodic, catchy tune can resonate with the soul and captivate the imagination, echoing in the mind long after the song is over. Even if the words don’t resonate with one’s belief system, the mind keeps repeating it. Music is a wonderful way to draw everyone into thinking about peace, because melody in itself is charming and attractive. If the melody resonates, people will sing it, perpetuate peace and be subliminally influenced by the positive message, even if they are not consciously concerned about peace.

5. Music is embedded in the fabric of every culture in the world. Every culture has traditional songs for peace, songs to bless the earth, songs to praise God. By including these traditional songs in the SONGS FOR PEACE concerts, the traditional, peaceful customs that form the basis of all cultures will be enlivened. 

6. Everyone responds to music. The success of American Idol, a singing contest that has become the most popular American TV show in history, is an example of the power of music to fascinate and mobilize the masses. Like a river flowing to the ocean, SONGS FOR PEACE will have no resistance in attracting a ready audience since people everywhere love music. (SONGS FOR PEACE will differ from American Idol as it is for songwriters and composers rather than just singers; is an international contest rather than American; and is for people of all ages and tastes in music rather than young pop star aspirants.)

6. An international contest such as SONGS FOR PEACE can focus the world’s attention on peace. When people are focusing on SONGS FOR PEACE, they are not focusing on war, hatred or conflict. When enough people focus on peace, a sudden phase transition can take place to create real and lasting peace in the world.

7. Creating good news is in itself a force for peace. We hear so much bad news about war, hatred and crime. Yet the majority of the world’s people have positive intentions—it is the minority that are angry, vengeful or violent. An international music contest could attract widespread media attention, focusing people’s thoughts on positive events instead of negative ones.

8. Musicians are in the habit of giving benefit concerts for peace. By enlisting celebrity musicians from around the world, SONGS FOR PEACE can become an international phenomenon that captures the world’s imagination. Professional musicians can perform the winning SONGS FOR PEACE, encouraging young people to compete in the contest, attracting large audiences, and thus perpetuating the power of SONGS FOR PEACE to create change.

9. While it would take vast resources and manpower to mount a worldwide teaching campaign for world peace for every school in the world, SONGS FOR PEACE, on the other hand, through the medium of music, can impart information about world peace in a way that is easily implemented, enjoyed, understood and appreciated by virtually everyone in the world.


What is the Structure of SONGS FOR PEACE?

I envision SONGS FOR PEACE as an international song-writing contest sponsored by Rotary International and implemented by Rotary Clubs all over the world. The goal is to get as many people possible, and as much of the world’s resources as possible, contributing their energy for peace.

Rotary International can sponsor contests on the city level, with the winners progressing to the state, national, international, continental and world levels.

• Separate contests can be held for music of various categories, such as classical, jazz, folk, pop, traditional, new age, rock, spiritual, even lullabies for babies.

• Significant cash prizes can be awarded to winners at each level and in each category, providing a draw for people to participate.

• Songs can be submitted electronically to a website, and voting could take place there, as in the recent Florida State Song contest. This will provide simultaneous access to anyone around the world at minimal administrative cost.

There can be special contests between Israel and Iraq , Pakistan and India , China and Taiwan , Huttu and Tutsi to create strong bonds of peace between rival nations.

• Special concerts could celebrate the traditional folk songs of each country, the songs of the land, songs of peace that are part of the fabric of the culture. This will help people to reconnect with their roots, their country’s high ideals and the peaceful goals of every culture.

• In a separate category, corporations could compete with each other by creating their own songs. These could later be used in advertisements and as theme songs for the corporations, thus increasing their exposure and influence.

• The winning SONGS FOR PEACE could be played on the same day at the same time around the world. This could become known as the Rotary World Peace Hour.

• Local and national celebrities could be invited to play the winning songs (as well as their own peace songs) and participate in benefit concerts to play the winning songs on the city, state, national, international, continental and world levels. The proceeds from the concerts could pay the operating expenses for SONGS FOR PEACE and fund non-profit Rotary projects around the world.

• The winning songs could be played at Rotary International’s national conventions. For instance, this spring at the national convention in L.A. , Natalie Cole is scheduled to perform, as well as the L.A. symphony orchestra. Performers such as these could play the winning songs, providing original music as a showpiece for the convention.

• The best songs from around the world could be made into CDs and sold worldwide to Rotarians and the general public. This would not only perpetuate peaceful thoughts and beliefs throughout the world, but revenues from the CDs could help finance SONGS FOR PEACE.

• Once the SONGS FOR PEACE contests become known worldwide, the idea could be expanded to include all of the arts for peace. Additional contests could be held for the most beautiful drawings for peace, paintings for peace, poetry for peace, short stories for peace. Even teachers could compete for the best lesson on peace. These spin-offs would magnify the power of peace many times.

• What could possibly motivate millions of people around the world to work for peace? The answer is opportunity. The opportunity to make a difference in the world, the opportunity to make a name for themselves, and the opportunity make significant amount of money. SONGS FOR PEACE will offer people in every country the opportunity for fame and fortune—and while pursuing their individual goals, they will contribute to a more peaceful world.


About George Barkett, DDS, MSD, ABO

I have been a Rotarian since 1966. A retired orthodontist, I have served on the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of Vero Beach, Florida, as the chair of our local Rotary foundation and as a participant in Rotarian projects such as Habitat for Humanity.

I feel passionately about SONGS FOR PEACE. Since the idea first came to me 20 years ago, it has never left my mind. My hope is that Rotary International will pick up this idea and adopt it. I sincerely feel that by joining with fellow Rotarians, we can make SONGS FOR PEACE a reality. Together we can make a difference; together we can create world peace by 2050. Why not join me in supporting this positive, inexpensive and powerful way of creating peace for our children and the entire world family now and for generations to come.

The Next Step

It is my hope that Rotary International will adopt SONGS FOR PEACE as a global initiative. If you have ideas for achieving that goal, please contact me (information below). Tell your friends about SONGS FOR PEACE. Give them this brochure. Enlist the help of your Rotary friends. I welcome your ideas, your contacts, and your fellowship in creating a peaceful world.


George Barkett/SONGS FOR PEACE

2606 Paloma Dr .

Vero Beach , FL 32960