Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
“What does writing have to do with peace? Writing as the placing of words on surfaces – clay, stone, papyrus, vellum, paper – not much. Early writing was used to record inventories and to praise rulers, but not to encourage peace.
But fiction writing is different. If the fiction presents its characters in the round – what they think, what they feel, who they love and fear – it’s impossible not to realize that those being read about are as human as those doing the reading. And if the characters are from other places or other cultures, it becomes less and less possible to dismiss such people as not like us and therefore not our fellow mortals.
Writers are limited in their range – in what they are able to write about – whereas readers are not. Readers can read across the whole sweep of human experience – as far back in the past as they can see, as far afield as they can reach, as far into the future as it is possible to imagine. The closer we are to a person, the psychiatrists tell us, the harder it is to actually murder them. Perhaps that is the way in which reading is conducive to peace: it brings us closer together. If I feel I know you, understand you, and like you, why would I wish to make war on you?
That, at any rate, is our hope. We could certainly use a little hope, right about now. “
— Margaret Atwood
Advancing Peace through Literature
Statement of Equal Justice
June 19, 2020
The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is dedicated to advancing peace through the power of the written word. There can never be peace without justice and equity for all people, but particularly for individuals of color and those who have been historically marginalized.
The Dayton Literary Peace Prize stands with all those in the United States and around the world who are lifting up their words and voices to call for justice and an end to oppression and systemic racism. Words educate, inspire, exalt and move us to reflect and change.
The critical movement that’s capturing the minds and hearts of so many can be informed by the written word. We celebrate writers dedicated to peace and justice—their words challenge us to be better. We acknowledge that the light they have shown on racism, violence, prejudice, cruelty, and inequity has gone unheeded too long. We encourage everyone to act on the words of these writers, either by continuing present efforts or by seeking new opportunities to expand and extend actions leading to peace.
Dayton Literary Peace Prize