In 1986 at the height of the cold war a torch of peace was passed around the world. The First Earth Run, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund directly engaged twenty-five million people and 45 heads-of-state in 62 countries. Over a billion people watched the torch via the media circumnavigate the globe. For 86 days wherever the torch of peace went all wars stopped and the world was united as one. Since then this modern day mythic story embodying humanity’s noblest aspiration for peace on earth has continued to be told all over the world.
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The initiative, entitled the First Earth Run, came to be seen as one of the great success stories about what can be accomplished in our world with the power of imagination and the commitment of dedicated individuals. The unique conditions that allowed it to succeed then are once again present now. Then, the palpable fear in the world caused it to contract. This created a countervailing pressure for expansion and transformation. It was that opening that allowed this anomaly in world events to occur.
We are once again facing a similar fear and contraction in the world, which is again creating a comparable pressure toward expansion and transformation. I hope that this story will prove instructive, inspiring the imagination and will of many around the world to enter into this opening. To enable this it concludes with “7 Actions to Change the World.”
These seven actions represent the best practices that enabled the First Earth Run to unite the world. They are so accessible that every woman, man and child on the planet can participate. And with all the networks so networked, they can rapidly be disseminated to tens of millions people all over the world.
Every year the First Earth Run story becomes more powerful because it embodies a vision that became a reality of humanity experiencing itself in a unitive state. Because we experienced the impossible becoming possible once, these seven actions can reunite us again through their archetypal aspiration to create peace on earth. All people of good will are invited to carry the torch and make this future our reality. These actions provide a means.
Native American elders create the fire and offer an inspirational message at the sunrise ceremony on the grounds of the United Nations. New York City, USA
Torch lit from cauldron at UN Opening Ceremony. New York City, USA
Child reading her message to UN dignitaries at opening ceremony. New York City, USA
United Nations Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, with torch at opening ceremony. New York City, USA
Children singing at opening ceremony at United Nations attended by 20,000 people with the participation of many celebrities. New York City, USA
Global runner, Phil Wiengarner fueling the miners' lamps that maintain integrity of peace flame.
Preparing the miner's lamp peace flame for flight.
Miner’s lamp holding peace flame and global runners at 40,000 feet.
Airline pilot signing miner’s lamp box containing peace flame transported on plane.
The art of torch wick rolling.
Representatives of twelve America's Cup crews took time out from sailing (against each other) to demonstrate their support for peace and cooperation. Freemantle, Australia
Global runner Selina Chirchir from Kenya gets a little help in Bangladesh.
Special Olympians carry the torch. Bahrain
Amir, Shaikh Isa Bin Sulman receives the torch. Manama, Bahrain
Sunset Ceremony overlooking Bay of Rio de Janeiro in front of the Christ of Corcovado statue garlanded with a blue and white “Paz” (peace) banner for the occasion. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A clown dressed in the colors of the Brazilian flag having fun running with the torch. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Street kids carry torch. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Runners with huge peace banner accompany torch to City Stadium where thousands await. São Paulo, Brazil
Peace. Porto Allegre, Brazil
Leading entertainer, Gilberto Gil holding torch at peace concert he organized with the best of Brazil’s popular musicians. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Before a crowd of 80,000 people, President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara was honored with a medal for his contribution to community development. He delivered a speech highlighting the role of women and children in creating peace.
Thousands of villagers welcome the torch of peace to Burkina Faso.
Crowds with candles lit from the torch of peace. Burkina Faso
First Earth Run President David Gershon, giving peace torch to Li Xiuannian, President of China, at Great Hall of People. Bejing, China
President Li Xiuannian in a light moment with First Earth Run International Director, Gail Straub. Bejing, China
Young and old running with joy. China
First Earth Run global team at the foot of the Great Wall of China.
Young boy with UNICEF and Chinese Flags at Great Wall of China ceremony.
Runners reach the top of the Great Wall of China after climbing thousands of feet.
Mother and child with torch. Bogotá, Colombia
50,000 plus crowd gathered in stadium celebrating torch’s arrival. Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire
President Felix Houphouet celebrates his 81st birthday with torch and kiss by Canadian global runner Patty Anglin. Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire
Czechsolvakian Olympic great Emil Zatopek talking with global runner Selina Chirchir. Prague, Czechslovakia
Torch relayed into government square. Prague, Czechslovakia
Children cheering the arrival of the torch. Birmingham, England
Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Alan Webster, lighting peace candles with children of many ethnic backgrounds. London, England
Royal Albert Hall candle lighting ceremony followed by gala peace concert. London, England
Pope John Paul II honors torch of peace with young runners at gathering of 60,000 at Stade de Gerland. Lyons, France
First Earth Run slogan in French. "Offer Peace to Children, it is the Future of the World." Paris, France
Parisian bus with UN peace symbol and father with child honor flame’s arrival. Paris, France
First Earth Run brochure and global runners after a long day. Paris, France
Dusk just outside Paris. This baby boy is now a young man. Paris, France
Torch bearer and runners. East Berlin, Germany
Construction workers receive the torch. East Berlin, Germany
Peace lamp and soldier. Guatemala City, Guatemala
Global runner Milka Singh and friends. Madras, India
Holy man with miner’s lamps transporting the fire. Mathura, India
Children's posters for peace. New Delhi, India
Going slowly through the streets with an estimated 100,000 participants and spectators mingled together. Hyderbad, India
Jim Grant, Executive Director of UNICEF and First Earth Run sponsor holds torch at Conference on South Asian Children. New Delhi, India
Runners with flower garlands at Taj Mahal. Agra, India
Expecting many guests for a ceremony at Indian President Giani Zail Singh’s residence. New Delhi, India
Cultural offering. Hyderabad, India
Celebration of the peace flame in ornamental costume. Indonesia
Torch used as part of celebration at Temple of Prambanam enacting ancient Hindu Ramayama epic. Jakarta, Indonesia
Some of the millions of Indonesians that lined the streets for over 1,500 kilometers as the flame traversed the country from Java to Bali. Indonesia
Arab and Jewish children from the Neva Shalom community carry the torch of peace together on the way to Jerusalem. Israel
Torch of peace honored in ceremony in Jerusalem. Israel
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and celebrity, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi running with the torch. Nagasaki, Japan
Pre event soccer with global runner Selina Chirchir and young boy. Nagasaki, Japan
Ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with Governor Takeshita and Mayor Araki. Runners laid a wreath at the Cenotaph for victims of the atomic bomb. Hiroshima, Japan
Children talking with global runner from United States, Phil Wiengarner. Hiroshima, Japan
Passing the flame from Governor Suzuki of Tokyo to the son of the Indonesian Ambassador, the next county to receive it.
Torch runner and flag holder on snowy afternoon. Hokkaido, Japan
President Daniel Moi receives the torch personally at Nairobi International Airport. Kenya
Runner with children. Nairobi, Kenya
Young torch bearers. Malaysia
Running having just lit cauldron on top of Pyramid Temple of the Sun. Teotihuacán, Mexico
King Birendra of Nepal signs miner’s lamps housing the flame on the grounds of Katmandu Royal Palace. Katmandu, Nepal
Prince Gyanendra lights an eternal flame at birth place of the Buddha. Lumbini, Nepal
Inscription describing the installation of an eternal peace flame at the pilgrimage site of Buddha's birth place. Lumbini, Nepal
Peace candles being lit from the torch. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Boy with peace candle. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Enthusiastic runners. Lagos, Nigeria
In the crowds. Lagos, Nigeria
President Ibrahim Bababgida delighted 60,000 spectators by an impromptu run with torch. Lagos, Nigeria
President Corazon Aquino with torch after delivering a stirring speech about the need for world cooperation to an estimated crowd of 500,000 people. Manila, Philippines
Children standing with makeshift torches in the rain. Warsaw, Poland
Young boy with peace candle. Warsaw, Poland
In Red Square, many torches were dispersed throughout the country. A strong message of support was delivered by President Mikhail Gorbachev, "The Soviet Union greets those who are selflessly and courageously carrying the torch of peace across the planet...strengthening the spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding among peoples." Moscow, Russia
David Gershon and Russian Olympic Runner Lioudmila Bragina interviewed by a reporter. Moscow, Russia
Young gymnasts with miner's lamp containing the peace flame. Moscow, Russia
More than 10,000 runners behind the torch. Leningrad (St Petersburg), Russia
Hong Kong film and musical celebrities took part in “Superstars for Peace” event at Singapore National Stadium. Singapore
Child with dove candle. Singarore
Tahitian dancers in ceremonial dress welcoming torch. Tahiti
School children awaiting the torch's arrival. Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
Peace meditation with torch at Thammasat University. Bangkok, Thailand
Boy with UNICEF flag. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tibetan spiritual leader lights torch carried up Mt. Everest by American and Chinese mountaineers. Lhasa, Tibet
Mt. Everest torch bearers with backdrop of the Potala, former residence of the Dali Lama. Lhasa, Tibet
Thousands gather along route to greet the torch. Kampala, Uganda
Touching the torch of peace. Kampala, Uganda
Candle lighting ceremony. Boston, Massachusetts, USA
UN Athletic Club runners in blue, join global runners in red to merge peace flame with John F. Kennedy's eternel flame at Arlington National Cemetery. Washington, DC, USA
Children along the route between Washington DC and New York City. USA
Fire in a bowl. Harare, Zimbabwe
Snow storm greets runners during last leg through New York City on way to United Nations Closing Ceremony. USA
Delegates at closing ceremony in UN General Assembly Hall describing how the torch brought inspiration to their countries. New York City, USA
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Photo Credits: © 1986, 2004, Haroldo de Faria Castro; UNICEF; Robert Goodearl
Part Two • Part Three • Part Four
Remarks from US President Ronald Reagan
Remarks by UN Secretary-General H.E. Javier Perez de Cueller
Remarks by James P. Grant, Executive Director of UNICEF
This music was inspired by the First Earth Run. It contains musical offerings by a number of artists who call upon us to envision a planet of peace, cooperation, global unity and our responsibility to create it.
Click to play (Total play time = 42 mins.)Audio file takes a few moments to load, please be patient.
1. Earth Run Anthem: Amanda George, James Papoulis – 2:202. Earth Run Anthem (instrumental): James Papoulis – 2:193. Run for the Life of the World: Julie Stafford, Dave Nolan – 3:504. Carry the Flame: Randy Bishop, Lisa C. Cohen – 4:045. Give the World a Chance: M. Tewksbury, P. Spiller – 4:385. Earth Run: Lee Ritenour – 4:327. D'Une Rive A L'Autre: Michel Jonasz – 4:048. Celebrate Life Around the World: Joyce, Ray – 1:399. Run for My Life: Cavarier – 4:0910. We Love You First Earth Run: Franko – 5:0711. Pass Me the Torch of Peace: Omar Ken – 5:13
As part for the First earth Run, there was a national competition in Japan to create posters celebrating this epic event to further peace in the world. It inspired a great outpouring of creativity and vision. What follows are the wining posters and the runners-up.
Read this interview with David Gershon and Gail Straub from Context Institute, entitled, "Earth Run, Circling the globe with a torch of peace."