While speaking at a reception for the French ambassador to the U.S. held in Atlanta the evening of Feb. 24, Andrew Young recalled Martin Luther King Jr.’s insight that the United States had air force, army, coast guard and naval academies, but no such institution for the study of peace.
“We should spend as much time studying peace as we do war,” added the former ambassador to the United Nations as well as mayor and congressman, underscoring his support for Atlanta establishing a university for peace studies in the city.
Sponsored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, the French software firm Dassault Systems and the Millennium Gate Museum, the event was titled “The Business of Peace: Leveraging Atlanta’s Global Business Culture and the French Connection.”
Philippe Etienne, France’s recently appointed ambassador to the U.S., completed his first tour of the Southeast in Atlanta where he visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Carter Center and the World of Coca-Cola museum. Other diplomats at the event included Vincent Hommeril, the French consul general, and Heike Fuller, the German consul general, both based in Atlanta.
Jacques Marcotte, the president of the French chamber, reminded the 100 or so attendees that peace offers commercial opportunities as does war.
Mr. Young elaborated on the theme by describing the success of “public-purpose capitalism,” which he said enabled the city to host the 1996 Olympic Games without committing any taxpayer money. He cited Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s regional impact of $82 billion as a shining example of how public investment serves the economy.
“That’s a good way to run a business — or a city,” he said.
Jodie Cox, Dassault’s representative, received a round of applause when he mentioned that the company’s Discovery Station software was being used to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Rodney Mims Cook Jr., the founder and president of the National Monuments Foundation, opened in 2008 the Millennium Gate Museum at Atlantic Station where the French ambassador was hosted. Mr. Cook is a champion of classical architecture and among his current projects is the development of a “peace park” in honor of his father Rodney Cook Sr.
Mr. Cook Sr. and Mr. Young were opponents in a 1972 election for the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Young defeated Mr. Cook, a veteran Republican politician who had served four terms in the Georgia house and also had served on the Atlanta board of aldermen.
In their comments, both Mr. Young and Mr. Cook Jr. confirmed that the race had resulted in an unexpected friendship between the two office seekers. Mr. Young claimed that his victory was based more on a desire by the electorate “for a change” than his campaigning, but reports from the time indicate he benefited from redistricting and forming a broad-based coalition.
Following a discussion about the merits of diplomacy during which the ambassador extolled the virtues of openness to meet with a wide variety of people, curiosity and love of country. Mr. Young said that “the strength of mind and spirit is more powerful than what comes out of the barrel of a gun,” yet admitted that the invention of the printing press resulted in Europe’s 30 Years War.
Mr. Young sees similar disruption from the emergence of smartphones.
“If the printing press could raise so much hell, shouldn’t we expect a great amount of disruption from these cell phones we are all holding?” he said, noting that he often tells students that they carry more computing power in their pockets than he had to run all of the City of Atlanta’s business in the 1990s.
Mr. Etienne responded that the pace of change today along with developments such as “fake news” brought new diplomatic challenges, calling the greatest challenge “the speed with which everything is happening,” and acknowledged that peace needs both time and space in which to develop diplomacy.
With this opening, Mr. Cook delved into an extensive accounting of French inspired architecture in the United States, reaffirming his defense of classical architecture, the beauty of green spaces and blaming modernist architecture for aspects of today’s ills.
He also recounted his extensive forays around the world to highlight Atlanta’s desire to become known as a city of peace and to bestow on a variety of influential recipients the Millennium Candler Peace and Justice Prizes, which brought Atlanta to the attention of the Nobel Peace Laureate Secretariat based in Rome, with the assistance of his friends Asa Candler and cousin Matthew Middlethon.
Mr. Cook is actively promoting the peace park which he is planning to develop in a manner inspired by the 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
His vision for the park includes a “universal city and peace university,” which is to offer a master’s degree and doctorate in peace administration currently being developed by INSEAD, a graduate business school with locations in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore), the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), and North America (San Francisco).
Looking over the park is to be a statue of Tomochichi, whom the ambassador learned was the head chief of a Yamacraw town on the site of present-day Savannah in the 18th century who received the first settlers peacefully.