Caren Stelson

Caren Stelson

author

PEACE

for all

Make Way for Peace

I’ve been on the look­out for peace sto­ries, and they’re every­where, some­times in the most unlike­ly places. I found one sur­pris­ing peace sto­ry in the heart of Boston, in the city’s his­toric Public Garden.

Anyone famil­iar with children’s lit­er­a­ture knows of the 1941 clas­sic Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. You may remem­ber Mr. and Mrs. Mallards’ search for the best home for their duck­lings, one that would offer safe­ty and security–something all chil­dren need and deserve. The Mallards even­tu­al­ly find “Duck Island,” in the lagoon of the Boston Public Garden, the per­fect place for Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack.

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Boston Artist Nancy Schon memo­ri­al­ized Make Way for Duckling in her 1987 bronze sculp­tures of Mrs. Mallard and her brood wad­dling through the Public Garden on their way to their des­ti­na­tion. Visit the sculp­ture at near­ly any time of day, and you will see chil­dren lov­ing­ly pet­ting the bronze duck­lings or “rid­ing” Mrs. Mallard. Watching the chil­dren may be a peace­ful scene, but the true peace sto­ry goes deeper.

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Nancy Schon’s Make Way for Ducklings sculp­ture in the Boston Public Gardens

First, we need a lit­tle his­to­ry in arms nego­ti­a­tion: In 1989, the Cold War had begun to thaw, and the Berlin Wall, long a sym­bol of divi­sion and dic­ta­tor­ship, tum­bled down. President George H.W. Bush and the Soviet Union’s President, Mikhail Gorbachev, began a dis­cus­sion to reduce nuclear weapons, end­ing with the sign­ing of the START treaty of 1991. Previously, in 1987, President Ronald Reagan had signed the INF Treaty (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty) with Gorbachev, reduc­ing and lim­it­ing short and medi­um range mis­siles. With these two arms nego­ti­a­tions, the world’s ten­sions relaxed. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists eased their 1981 “Doomsday Clock’s “ hands from 4 min­utes to “mid­night” to 17 min­utes to “mid­night.” In 1991, the homes of chil­dren world-wide were safer and more secure since the atom­ic bomb­ings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The year before the SALT Treaty was signed, First Lady Raisa Gorbachev vis­it­ed Boston with her coun­ter­part and guide, First Lady Barbara Bush. Together, the two women admired the Make Way for Ducklings sculp­ture in the Public Garden. An idea bub­bled up. Not long after, artist Nancy Schon received a phone call. Could she cre­ate a sec­ond bronze sculp­ture of the Mallard fam­i­ly as part of a cel­e­bra­tion for the sign­ing of the START Treaty in Moscow?

Today the Make Way for Ducklings sculp­ture greets the chil­dren in Boston’s Public Garden. And in Moscow, near the Kremlin, at a UNESCO World Heritage Site, anoth­er Mrs. Mallard and her duck­lings greet the chil­dren of Russia. A plaque in a qui­et sec­tion of Novodevichy Park explains in Russian and English: This sculp­ture is a gift to the chil­dren of the Soviet Union on behalf of the chil­dren of the United States as an expres­sion of love and friendship …

In 2019, the United States is on the cusp of dis­solv­ing the very arms treaties that past U.S. and Russian lead­ers signed. We are now at an alarm­ing two min­utes to “mid­night.”

No one can afford to be com­pla­cent. Not you. Not me. We have to stop this reck­less pur­suit of arms, nuclear and con­ven­tion­al, that will only increase world fear, cost tril­lions and end up pro­vok­ing war. Perhaps a favorite children’s book and a fam­i­ly of ducks beloved by two adver­sar­i­al nations can remind us of what we all hold dear and what we all hope for—safe and secure homes and a peace­ful future for our chil­dren, their chil­dren, and theirs.

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The Make Way for Ducklings plaque in Moscow

Bibliography

Make Way for Diplomacy: How Boston’s “Ducklings” Helped Ease U.S.-Soviet Tensions.” WBUR radio station.

McCloskey, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings. New York: The Viking Press, 1941.

Schon, Nancy. Make Way for Nancy: A Life in Public Art. Boston: David R. Godine, 2017.

Donald Trump Confirms US Withdrawal from INF Nuclear Treaty,” The Guardian, February 1, 2019.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Doomsday Clock Timeline

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