Dozens of strangers stand hand in hand. Heads are down. A comfortable silence fills the surrounding space.
These students and faculty members may not know whose hand they’re holding, but on this sun-drenched fall day, that is the last thing on anyone’s mind.
“Peace is all about unity between people. It doesn’t matter if you know those people or not. Unity is what connects us,” said Castleton student Justin Picou.
Castleton State College celebrated International Peace Day on Sept. 21 by creating a human peace sign on the lawn outside of the Campus Center.
The peace sign was originally created by anti-war activist Gerald Herbert Holtom in 1958, who worked for the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War. Holtom was inspired by Francisco Goya’s painting “The Third of May,” in which Goya sought to commemorate Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies in the Peninsular War.
In the painting, victims are shown with their arms outstretched and downward as a display of peace to the firing squad. This is the symbol that makes up the downward sloping lines of the peace sign.
Holtom also claimed that this part of the symbol represents the letter N and the line down the center of the circle represents two letter D’s back to back. These letters are code for the term Nuclear Disarmament.
The iconic symbol was created to hold great power and to deliver a strong message regarding the necessity of peace. However, some students at Castleton State College feel as though the meaning has been lost over the years.
“I find it arrogant that the sign is used everywhere and so casually. It has been so commercialized that we forget what it truly stands for. Peace comes at a price, and we need to learn to respect that again,” said student Jacob Woodward, who dislikes the idea that the symbol is now manufactured on everything from baby bottles to shoelaces.
But not everyone at the campus celebration shared his harsh opinion. Most feel an overwhelming sense of optimism about the subject.
Sophomore Karina Lucia was excited to participate and feels a deep connection with the symbol.
“There is so much hate in this world,” Lucia said. “It’s nice to take a moment like this and reflect; you can feel the positive vibrations from everyone. It’s a good change of pace.”
Castleton professor Candy Fox was the cheerful leader behind the campus celebration, and she was delighted at the outcome of participants. Fox believes that peace is a personal choice; it is something you must create within yourself before you can start to spread the feeling.
“We all have different paths to finding inner peace. Just be still and listen to yourself. Respect yourself and you will learn to respect others,” Fox said. “Peace will automatically follow.”