As the world mourns the loss of His Excellency Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General as a soft spoken and patrician diplomat from Ghana, Roots of Peace grieves for the loss of a mentor and friend who ‘fanned the flame’ of idea to turn MINES TO VINES–replacing the scourge of landmines with bountiful vineyards and orchards worldwide. Kofi Annan, a charismatic gentleman of grace, believed in our dream in 1997–the same year he became year he became the distinguished Secretary-
On September 21, 1997, following the death of the late Princess Diana of Wales, the vision to plant the Roots of Peace began in Marin County, where the dream of the United Nations originally began in 1945 following World War II beneath the towering redwood trees of Muir Woods. The ancient circles of the redwood tree define the years, and grow tall beyond the lifetime of mankind. This image deeply inspired me to pursue my dream for peace.
And, as a Mother of four children, I hosted members of the Commonwealth Club at our Kuhn family home and made a prophetic toast that the world may go from MINES TO VINES.
In December 1997, California vintners from Wente, Beringer and Mondavi joined me to witness the signing of the Ottawa Treaty to Ban Landmines. It was in Canada, that I first met Kofi Annan, who was a strong advocate for the eradication of landmines. While the United States had not signed the treaty, we went as farmers respecting the plight of those who sought to cultivate peace on former war-torn lands. He deeply respected our humanitarian efforts, and encouraged us to continue the dream.
On April 20, 1998, Mrs. Kofi (Nane) Annan joined to launch Roots of Peace at the World Trade Center in San Francisco. Our SF Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi joined me, as well as landmine survivor Jerry White and General Robert Gard who were in the living room of our family home just months earlier. Bobby Muller, Vietnam Veterans of America sponsors the event, and over 200 guests joined us to launch this vision to plant the Roots of Peace.
Over the years, Kofi Annan became a true friend to Roots of Peace, with support from his Assistant Secretary-General, Gillian Sorensen, wife of the late Ted Sorensen, speechwriter for JFK. ‘Ask not’ for they both contributed more towards not what your world may do for you, but for what you may do for your world! Following Kofi’s commencement speech at Stanford University in June 2000, he joined us at the Garden Court in Palo Alto with Silicon Valley executive and Napa/Sonoma Valley vintners to lend his strong voice for turning MINES TO VINES in Croatia, following my return just the month before with Croatian-born vintner Miljemko ‘Mike’ Grgich and my own daughter, Kyleigh Kuhn, who celebrated her 13th birthday in a minefield. Kofi Annan wrote these words:
‘You have turned mines to vines by replacing the seeds of destruction with the seeds of life…
And. you have shown the world that even with modest beginnings, a partnership backed up by
persistence can make a real difference.”
And, following the 9/11 attacks, Kofi hosted Roots of Peace in the Delegate’s Dining Room at the United Nations in New York City and established our garden at The Isaiah Wall with the words etched in stone from the Old Testament Prophesy:
“And may they beat their swords into plowshares;
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift sword agains nation;
Neither shall they learn war anymore.’
These words embodied our vision to turn ‘swords into plowshares’ by turning ‘mines into vines’.
On December 3, 2003, Kofi joined us at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, a structure created by the vision of architect Frank Gerhy who constructed this amazing building in the shape of a flower with metal. Again, turning ‘swords into plowshares’ with the cold metal shaped into an object of beauty.
Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney, was the co-host of this special Roots of Peace event.
Together, we brought forth the true spirit of her father, as her own three children attended in the audience.
Kofi and Nane Annan sat next to us, and with his soft baritone measured voice, he presented us both with a silver ‘conche shell’ to thank us for ‘listening to the footsteps of the Earth’ through the eradication of landmines.
Kofi Annan was the world’s emissary to the dark side, as he used his charm to negotiate with thugs and criminals of war to seek a more just side for humanity.
The soft approach of Kofi Annan deeply motivated me to plant the Roots of Peace in Afghanistan, and go the distance despite Taiiban attacks on our compound on March 28, 2014. He embodied the spirit of ‘Never, never give up!’
In October 2016, I visited the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland to personally deliver fresh white orchid flowers in tribute to his support of my vision to plant the Roots of Peace on Earth two decades ago.
In his usual diplomatic style, Kofi wrote a personal letter of appreciation to acknowledge that five (5) million trees had been planted in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan benefiting over one (1) million farmers and families on former war-torn lands. These efforts validated his belief in civil society, and the return on the investment in the heart of just one American Mother.
The Roots of Peace now bear fruit in Afghanistan, Angola, Croatia, Cambodia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Vietnam.
Just days prior to the passing of Kofi Annan, he visited Zimbabwe–the heart of his African ‘roots’ of peace.
In his name, Roots of Peace vows to turn MINES TO VINES in Zimbabwe, as we replace the scourge of landmines with bountiful agricultural crops to heal the wounds of war in his beloved African homeland.
May we continue his vision of turning ‘swords into plowshares’ by turning ‘mines to vines’ in our humble efforts to plant the Roots of peace on Earth…