Friday, September 4, 2015
The World Peace Bell - Newport, Kentucky
By John Deering
Just to stand by it and look at the beautiful bronze color (80% copper and 20% tin) and then to hear the sound of the World Peace Bell in Newport is “awesome” – as our young people might say. It is indeed awesome to behold for several reasons or more: this huge bell swings freely when started. It is the largest swinging bell in the world and weighs 66, 000 pounds.
Even the clapper alone weighs 6,878 pounds. A thought “struck” me at this point: how can I illustrate the significance of this amount of weight? Perhaps the weight of automobiles will suffice. How many automobiles does this weight represent? I called a local dealer and got an estimate of the weight of a full-sized car.
Then I did some figuring and determined this bell weighs as much as twelve full-sized automobiles. Besides the weight being awesome, this bell has a beautiful resounding and resonant tone. This magnificent bell has been designed to become a symbol of freedom and peace.
What a great idea this has become!
You might be wondering why we need such a monument to peace. As the creators have said, even we Americans do sometimes take freedom for granted, but this structure can continually remind us of those freedoms if and when they are endangered at home or abroad. All of us are invited to look and listen as this truly majestic symbol of our freedom rings out “o’er the land,” as one of our founding fathers might have expressed it.
Now you are wondering who these creators are. The names are familiar to most, if not indeed to all of us: Wayne Carlisle who is a developer, a visionary, and a philanthropist. He has been called a “follower of the American dream.” The other is Jack Moreland who is my friend and fellow school administrator and I’ll call him another follower of that dream. He is currently the President of Southbank Partners, Inc. a community and economic development organization that facilitates care of the bell
The bell was cast on December 11, 1998, the date that coordinates with the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris, France, in 1948. It took eighteen months of designing, planning, and preparing the bell to be cast in Nantes, France, since it was too large to be cast locally. There was even a “test casting” of a 2,000 pound bell beforehand. Then came the unveiling in Nantes in a public ceremony where it was rung for the first time. The trip home to the United States began in April 1999. It was brought by barge across the ocean to New Orleans. “From there it came on a fairly ceremonious trip up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers stopping along the way at various cities such as Naches, Paducah, Memphis, and Louisville to celebrate the concept of world peace,” said Jack Moreland. Since November, 1999, and after much preparation, the bell now resides in the Levee District of Newport and rang for the first time on New Year’s Eve 1999.
There are two ways to ring it: by hitting it with a large striker – an intricate part of the system -- or by turning on the electrical system; after using the system, it takes thirty seconds for it to begin ringing. Then momentum takes over and it will continue to ring for several minutes even after the power has been turned off.
The bell is rung for such occasions as civic events or for military groups holding special ceremonies. Other visitors are students from regional schools and visitors from around the world: Germany, Australia, South America, and Japan thus far. They can also see a display of mementos from the original installment celebration; these mementos include symbols of peace from countries throughout the world. From its inception, the plan here has always been that it will be a unifying object, and tied in concept to thousands of other bells across the United States. Wayne Carlisle envisions this bell to be the “mother” bell; and when it rings, the bells in other cities and towns will also ring. The hope continues that when the bells ring, people will pause and reflect on how important it is to have world peace. Jack Moreland has said, “The whole idea is to live and work in a country that wants to be as peaceful as the United States. I think we’ve demonstrated over time that by and large this country is a peaceful nation and we hope for peace for everyone in the world.”
We -- the American people -- and other peace-loving human beings can hope this beautiful concept of peace designed by these so well-meaning builders of this concept of the bells will come to fruition and there can indeed be “Peace o’re all the land” -- including our cities that have so recently become fraught with so much violence, crime, and injustice.
Yes, standing next to the Peace Bell when it is ringing is an awesome experience.*
*I am indebted to Jack Moreland and Kentucky writer Christina Noll for some basic information for this project.