A Message from Virginia Swain:

A day of terror attacks by Al Qaeda extremists, September 11, 2001 was a pivotal moment in world history, leading many people to re-examine their values and seek better understanding of the role of the United States in a world fraught with protracted social and political conflict.  For some, the events of the day brought into sharp focus the violence and war that others around the globe experience on a daily basis.   For instance, Nan Merrill, author and columnist writes, “September 11, 2001 will long be remembered as a terrible and shocking tragedy.  Forever vivid will be the memory of how our nation and the world joined in solidarity with nations and peoples devastated by war and violence.” (Merrill, 2006). Others explained 9/11 in terms of a “clash of civilizations,” a term used by Huntington (1993) to advance his theory that culture would be the main driver of conflict in a post cold-war era; the clash was now understood to be between “the West versus Islam,” and for some, between Judeo-Christian and Islamic values.

This author began her work after noting the leadership crises on 9/11. The best of our humanity is needed now from people from all faith traditions to address the leadership crises in community, institutional, national and global arenas that will restore the world’s faith in humanity. This book chronicles the founding and implementation of the unique gifts and special calling of Reconciliation Leaders and how they implement a new development model, A Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation to Develop Political Will.

Reconciliation Leadership is a distinct vocation, requiring reflection time first for new knowledge of one’s own values, gifts and talents. It arises from one’s integrity, special calling and skillbuilding in learned behaviors, a philosophy of life to be at peace in oneself and in service to our planet – acting locally or globally—to cultivate leaders for a living economy. The challenge to harness the resources of the economy and the free flow of money with what is best for the earth and its inhabitants. Graduates of the certificate program have been introduced to the personal, interpersonal, group, systemic and global competencies of Reconciliation Leadership as well as its historic, visionary and pragmatic approaches for community institutional and global challenges. We use this discernment quote for our leaders in training:
“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
What the world needs is people who have come alive.“
Howard Thurman, Advisor to Martin Luther King

A mural with a phoenix rising out of the ashes of World War II in the UN Security Council sparked a beginning of a larger vision for me:  another phoenix rising out of the ashes of 9/11, restoring faith in humanity by helping leaders claim their mission/purpose and end the cycle of violence within and without them.

“We must become wiser than we have ever been before, for the world we are entering cannot be understood or addressed adequately with past visions, analyses and systems. We must become more fully conscious and holistically spiritual than ever before, awakening and attuning ourselves to the sacred presence in all life and bowing to the inner workings of the Spirit in the earth’s processes—lest we destroy our own lifeline out of ignorance, unawarenss or arrogance.” By Patricia Mische, Toward a Global Spirituality.

In 1995 I was invited to a six month working group leading to a book, Abolishing War: Dialogue with Peace Scholars Elise Boulding and Randy Forsberg.  During the six months, Elise said she had lost faith in humanity.  My leading was to find a way to restore faith in humanity.  Besides clearness support at Cambridge Friends Meeting (and later at Worcester Friends Meeting), Elise (and other colleagues on Friends Peace Teams with me) provided clearness to my leading to find a way to restore faith in humanity.  The leadership and development models designed and practiced over 20 years give leaders resources to reconcile any challenge using nonviolent means. The models help people see the light in everyone, claim one’s life mission, and use a toolbox that includes Elise’s imaging process.

Elise was a consistent supporter of my vision since 1995 to build a Peacebuilding Process to Develop Political Will to hear and provide resources for the voice of the people to complement the UN’s processes.  She wrote an endorsement for my memoir, A Mantle of Roses: A Woman’s Journey Home to Peace: “We have much to learn from each other about how we have traveled and sometimes travailed through our life journeys. Virginia Swain’s story of her own development through time as a peacemaker and a compassionate human being will be inspiring and helpful to many. Her sense of calling is very strong and rightly guided.  I have been interested in how Virginia’s innovative approach to leadership and peacebuilding in highly stressful conflicts has risen from her life journey. The Reconciliation Leadership Certificate Program and the Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service are important contributions to the Culture of Peace.”

International Peace Research Association

Michael Collins, as advisor to my master’s thesis project in 1992, wrote, “In particular, Virginias humanity, dedication and determination in the conception and production of her project cornerstone event, the Celebration of the Children of the World, presented at the United Nations in 1992, gave credence to her impressive credentials as a successful global networker and true exponent of the new language of international collaboration. The mastery of this concept could lead to the maturation of human society into a genuine planetary family Her peacebuilding process of reconciliation, which provides a personalizing experience of real community, offers significant promise for integrating the vision of global cooperation into the everyday consciousness of men, women and children.”

—Michael Collins, International Commerce
and Human Development Consultant in Ireland,
Slovakia and the European Union. Team Member,
Virginia’s Master of Arts Project, United Nations

The new models of leadership were developed over twenty years in discernment, practice and reflection to address the above queries in the United States and the United Nations.  Some of problem of American Leadership in international arenas are:

  • The United States and the United Nations Leaders need to embody “In God We Trust” written on our currency–for a spiritual renaissance to enlarge their vision into a global community living in the laws of justice (Hammarskjold) and include the will of the people to reconcile the global problematique—the issues that nation states cannot address because they cross national boundaries.
  • Earth Summit Assessment of Leadership and stalled political process revealed a need for new models of leadership and development that build community and interdependence
  • Need to interrupt the revenge cycle and rebuild trust, caused by the CIA and previous leadership based on self-interest, re-kindle relationship with the other and provide a roadmap for a multiethnic, sustainable peace by first embracing the good and true in society then offering ways to knit the global economic society back together into a coherent whole in profound relationship with the earth and its resources.
  • If we keep using the same recipe we’ll keep getting the same cake. The current model of leadership at the UN and the US has features of elitism that do not tape the resources need to resolve the complex issues of the human condition. For example, exclusionary political words like “high level” and “eminent persons” which are part of the organizational discourse reflect a tendency to dismiss those lacking in power and status rather than evoke the cooperative.
  • The current model of leadership for peace is based on helping victims and capturing perpetrators, rather than providing a process to reconcile them to one another. Thus there is a need to enlarge the framework to heal the cycle of violence and to address the tacit norms that would help change the behaviors of leaders from denigrating others to respecting others. New competencies are needed from personal to the global interactions.
  • “The world need leaders made strong by vision, sustained by ethics and reveals by political courage that looks to the longer term and future generations for whom the present is held in trust. Out Global Neighborhood: Independent Commission of Global Governance in its 1995 Report.
  • Many Americans think the United Nations is impotent, not realizing that if we want to change the UN it has to be done through each country—especially the country with the most power, the United States. Even though there was an impulse at the end of World War II to strengthen the UN, the impulse failed and now, 193 countries work in their own self interest making it impossible to resolve problems—especially those beyond the ability of individual states that require common interest. . The Security Council veto that strangles political will remains the stronghold of the five countries who were the victors of World War II seventy years later.
  • The UN culture forbids self-examination and renewal even through UN reform is paid lip service. International Civil Servants are not allowed to say anything critical about the institution.
  • Archbishop Tutu has long called for a Truth Commission for the United States to heal the intractable divisions of our country, the only superpower left in the United Nations world body. The cycle of violence has become systemic—from massacres of Native peoples in the early days of the United States government, to servitude of blacks, women and children, to the internment of Japanese during World War II, to the current public and private humiliation of Arabs, South Asians and Muslims.  A multilateral approach is needed within the United States, to facilitate more equitable sharing of power and to reconcile the divisions at the individual and collective levels. Given the status accorded to the United States by world nations, it behooves the U.S. to lead by example. 
  • There is a tragic lag in the development of humanity—personal and systemic. The current model of leadership at the United Nations has features of elitism that do not tap the resources needed to resolve the complex issues of the human condition. For example, exclusionary political words like “high level” and “eminent persons,” which are part of the organizational discourse, reflect a tendency to humiliate those lacking in power and status, rather than evoke the cooperative. In addition, current peacebuilding interventions are based on helping victims and capturing perpetrators, rather than providing a process to reconcile them to one another. Thus, there is a need to enlarge the framework to heal the cycle of violence, and to address the tacit norms that would help change the behaviors of Secretariat member from humiliation to respect. New methods of reconciliation training followed up by mentoring can develop new competencies applicable to personal, interpersonal, systemic and global competencies.
  • Polarities are set up that preclude peaceful resolution of disputes. For example the UN is pro Palestine and the US is pro-Israel. That polarity has been a major factor in the lack of resolution. Reconciliation Leaders are trained not to take sides and recognize and put aside their biases.
  • Leaders need new tools to assess, reflect upon and re-examine unconscious behaviors in conflicts.  The conditions of a post-September 11th world are such that unconscious emotions control behaviors both in our personal and professional lives.  Dr. John Bargh reports that 95 % of human behavior is unconscious (1997).  The Seven Stages of Transition Model shows a predictable cycle of unconscious behaviors in a vision curve on how to reclaim one’s vision and stop self defeating behaviors (Spencer and Adams, 1990).   Making the unconscious behaviors conscious requires moving through them to find new meaning and vision. 
  • Continued conflict in many parts of the world underscore the need for parties to break the cycle of violence and humiliation that otherwise may be perpetual. In our view, the increased call for United Nations reform requires new competencies to handle the high levels of conflict and emotions so prevalent at this time from the local to the global. A multilateral approach is needed to reconcile the divisions of society, as well as sharing power differently help build trust and break the cycle of violence.  From the local to the global, emerging and seasoned conflict resolution professionals need training that strengthens existing skills and provides strategies to de-escalate the high levels of conflict and emotions..
  • There is a fear of people who are different and a need for global community, interdependence and an understanding of our oneness. The “citizens of the world” have yet to speak.
  • Rather than defining the United Nations Charter mandate through its commitment to abolish war, the absence of war does not necessarily constitute peace. Since its founding in 1945, there have been 150 wars and 22 million killed. In many countries there is a negative peace (ceased hostiliities) instead of a positive peace (restoration of a country).
  • Many groups including people of color and women have been excluded from the US Constitution. The US is unwilling to look at its past to heal unhealthy patterns that are then projected on the world. For example, Amnesty International recently focused on human rights issues in the United States including brutal law enforcement (violation of Crime Control Act of 1994) use of deadly psychological methods for US prisoners (violations of the Geneva Convention), immigration policies that violate international standards, exportation of arms violation of UN Conventional Arms registry.
  • Historian Joseph Baratta writes that history is the cycle of violence repeating itself. In the case of development, the cycle of violence has wreaked havoc on all of humanity and civilizations.  Many Quaker models of peace and development are embued with the unresolved cycle of violence within their founders.
  • Interviews with various members of the UN community (including ambassadorial staff, international civil servants and non-governmental representatives) demonstrated how people’s anger and self-defeating behavior prevented them from being effective in implementing their highest ideals. In addition, the Cold War’s divisions had become systemic.  An “us and them” mentality as well as personal biases arising from differences of gender, age, culture, and religion promoted divisions rather than unity in serving the goal of the United Nations Charter. This needs assessment proved the urgent need for an intervention process that would integrate both personal and systemic approaches.
  • We each have hurt and have been hurt by others, each has broken trust with one another.  We can each help heal the past.  This is true of nations as well as individuals.  Perhaps armaments continue to proliferate not only because the trade is profitable, but also because as nations we are too proud to say we are sorry…Each nation and people have a history which needs to be healed before we can build a healthy world community together. Learning to seek and grant forgiveness between national and ethnic communities is an important part of national and ethnic ego transcendence needed for a more human world order” (Mische, 1995).  
  • The world is a mess (Hon. Madeline Albright). History demonstrates the cycle of violence repeating itself.  People don’t know their goodness.  There isn’t a clear foundation for people to build upon.  Leadership is prescriptive vs.    The fact that there is so much military violence is causing degeneration of minorities and others that have become systematized. 
  • Polarity is causing paralysis (i.e.: UN supporting Palestine and the US supporting Israel). People have false boundaries that are prescribed to them.
  • There is a need for new leadership and development models flexible enough to embrace people’s strengths and goodness, heal unconscious patterns and create a spiritual non-denominational kinship between people so that they can experience their oneness.
  • Outdated Power system in the UN lies in victors of World War II in Security Council
  • M/F estranged—Fear of Feminine (Erich Neumann)
  • Tacit norms exclude minority voices in system
  • With such a high level of emotions causing people to raise their voices, scream at, strike and even kill one another, following the “Victimhood and Aggression: Psychological Dynamics” line of thinking can be a useful way for participants to begin healing from alienating experiences, withdraw their projections and build relationships across divisions. Participants create ground rules for themselves that are primarily monitored by facilitators, but also by participants. A common experience brings people together naturally and emotions are contained and released (Steele, 1997).

Some leadership and development challenges at home and at work in the USA

  • In post-September 11th workplaces and communities, leaders are rewarded for their drive, productivity and long work hours. However, they are often immobilized by unresolved conflicts, and lack the vision and skills needed to be effective.
  • Today’s workplaces and communities are fraught with overworked, over-busy people jockeying for power. Unresolved conflicts, overt and subtle manipulation, devaluing, and blaming are commonplace.  Anger and fear comes out in meanness, one-upsmanship, bullying, threats, and firing people who have not been supported with a caring environment.  Competition has wreaked havoc on workplace and community environments that need cooperation to resolve the problems that go beyond the self-interested cubicles, desks and neighborhoods.  Trust erodes when words and deeds don’t match; when employees and teams are pitted against one another; and when neighborhoods vie for resources, ignoring the needs of the greater, common good.  People are ignoring the cooperative elements of life. A workforce and community is only as strong as the way it treats its weakest members.
  • The expert model of leadership that is today’s standard has forced people to be wedded to their titles and roles rather than their humanity. And, most of today’s leaders don’t have the personal, interpersonal and systemic skills to resolve the conflicts and stress that beset them in their family, work and community lives.  When conflicts and stress don’t get resolved, they build. Systems break down because their stressors are greater than their strengths.  Blaming and denigrating others limit options for resolution.  Our cultural, religious, and gender lens often is narrow and biased without being able to respect difference of opinion.
  • Many popular leadership models offer top-down disempowerment approaches and are not committed to long-term, sustainable goals



This is a note of gratitude for my longtime mentor, colleague and friend, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury. Since we met at Clark University in 2001 just after we had both been at the UN the day of the World Trade Center attack, Ambassador Chowdhury has opened doors for me and my work at the United Nations.  He has traveled to Worcester, MA where together, we founded the Culture of Peace Initiative, which included my television show, Imagine Worcester and the World.

Ambassador Chowdhury and I dedicated our courses to the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).  As a statesman and skilled negotiator, Ambassador Chowhudy led the negotiations in 1998-99 that resulted in the adoption of the Programme of Action on A Culture of Peace by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999.  He also steered the adoption of the resolution declaring the period 2001-2010 as the United Nations Decade for Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.  He continues to lead United Nations and civil society leaders in create e ways to continue the decade even after it has ended.  More recently, he founded the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace of which we are a member.

The Institute for Global Leadership conferred its first Life Leadership Service award at the Beechwood Hotel in Worcester in 2008. For a press release about this event, go to http://www.choicewordsonline.com/pdfs/Leadership%20conf_40607.pdf

The late Dr. Elise Boulding, also a mentor, friend, author of 50 books and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, told me once she lost her faith in humanity.   Hence Restoring our Faith in Humanity.  In point of fact, everything we’ve done in the last twenty years–from founding Reconciliation Leadership and the Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service, has been to restore people’s faith in human goodness–helping adults and children  willing to claim their mission and learn the toolbox of skills I teach Reconciliation Leaders.

Through Friends of Dag Hammarskjold, we are developing a global network of Reconciliation Leaders. Learn about the Reconciliation Leadership Certificate Program and case studies of how we reconcile protracted challenges in A Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service.

Early on, I was inspired by the astronauts–who gave us the image of the earth from space as peaceful and calm.  John Glenn, Association of Space Astronauts and US Senator wrote,  “When I circled the planet again and again, I experienced different people, different cultures, vastly different experiences and origins. Yet there is a golden thread that runs through all these expressions of individual experience that is the magic of life.”    Watch By Wonder Are We Saved showing the astronaut’s experience.

Reconciliation Leaders — Of All Ages are practical idealists and offer a systems approach to leadership.  The approach grows from participants personal mission, skill building, and a commitment to be at peace in themselves and in service to others.  Reconciliation Leaders are committed to find balance among career, home life, and reflection time, using a methodology to deal with the high level of stress in their own and in other people’s lives.  They are global citizens.

I’ve always felt that  children are naturally  global citizens in their innocence, generosity, sense of awe and wonder and in their curiosity, creativity and cooperative nature.  They have much to teach us and need to be empowered to speak and be heard.  Read  Children as Leaders

We offer  resources in literacy, global education, counseling, coaching, mediation, leadership training, expressive arts, grief support and bereavement for children, their caregivers, parents, grandparents, teachers and advocates–and especially for children of all ages!

Reconciliation Leadership Certificate Program–Sign up our blog to learn how vocationally called people restore faith in humanity.  http://virginiaswain.com/?page_id=38

We believe it is vital that generations learn from one another.  Children’s voices are missing. Services to empower children and their caregivers who are open to learning how to listen, respect and support children are offered in person, on skype, on the telephone.

Our inaugural event at the United Nations, Celebration of the Children of the World: A Model for Building Global Community  (United Nations 1992) evolved into A Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation –A History of its Evolution with Children of all Ages.  Listen to the Children, by Tom Hansen Ph.D.  sung at the Celebration of the Children of the World at the United Nations,  December 10, 1992 as well as Our Children’s Children, were inspiring songs sung at the Celebration.  A Global Liturgy: Celebrating the Children of the World

Dr. Boulding trained me in the imaging workshop to motivate behavior in the present by using images of the future.  The theory is we will not be able to create something we haven’t envisioned. After imaging a positive future, one can work back into present time to achieve a positive present with a timeline and concrete action steps. Here’s a presentation I made at the United Nations in 2011 Visionary Leadership. A Presentation on United Nations Day 2011

Here is an example from my television show, Imagine Worcester and the World, of the imaging workshop with third graders who used their imagination to create solutions for climate change.  Ambassador and Mrs. Anwarul K. Chowdhury with Third Grade Climate Change Project at Nelson Place School on Imagine Worcester and the World Television Show.

describe my vision of expanding Imagine Worcester and the World Television Show to Include Global Children Here is a newspaper article explaining my work with children. A World United by the YoungEducating for Global CitizenshipOur first global literacy project is a citizen’s exchange initiated by Xinyan and her mother Liu in China.  Read about research in Educating for Global Citizenship

We have spent decades listening to children and training others of the need to have children in the public discourse.

Celebration of the Children of the World: A Model for Building Global Community

Celebration of the Children of the World: A Model for Building Global Community  (United Nations 1992) evolves into A Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation –A History of its Evolution with Children of all Ages.

Listen to the Children, by Tom Hansen Ph.D.  sung at the Celebration of the Children of the World at the United Nations,  December 10, 1992.Our Children’s Children, a song by Tom Hansen Ph.D. , sung at the Celebration.

with my best,

Virginia Swain