239 Days in America

A Social Media Documentary following 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1912

May 3, 1912
Chicago, IL
Storify Feature

America Will Lead the World to Peace

THE PLAZA HOTEL in Chicago stands eight stories tall in heavy red brick. It’s actually kind of boring. But the restraint ends there. Inside, it’s a wedding cake. Heavy white columns with golden capitals hold up ceilings covered in intricate ornamentation. Red velvet seating sits atop rouge carpets. Rich red paisley dresses the mirrored walls. Everything appears to be frosted in gold.


On May 3, 1912, ‘Abdul-Bahá met with visitors in the hotel’s ballroom throughout the day. If he was impressed, he failed to comment. There were more urgent things at hand.

‘Abdul-Bahá turned his attention once again to the war taking place in Libya. He painted an apocalyptic scene: “Observe what is taking place in Tripoli: men cutting each other into pieces, bombardment from the sea, attacks from the land and the hail of dynamite from the very heaven itself.”

The subject of war and peace has occupied much of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time. He has become a well-known voice in the international peace movement. In fact one of the reasons for his trip to America is to speak at the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration on May 14.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá believes that the American nation is singly positioned to lead the world to peace: “Because I find the American nation so capable of achievement, and the American government the fairest of Western governments, its systems superior to others, my wish and hope is that the banner of peace may be raised first on this continent, that the standard of the Most Great Peace may here be unfurled.”

Though he arrived in America only a few weeks ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seems to have perceived something unique in the nation and its people. He has returned every few days to the theme of America’s great potential.

“I request that you strive and supplicate with heart and soul, devoting all your energies to this end, that the banner of International Peace in reality may be unfurled here, and that American Democracy may be the cause of the cessation of warfare in all other countries.”

During the next two weeks, ‘Abdul-Bahá will speak to various peace societies on the east coast, culminating in his major address at Lake Mohonk. At the Plaza Hotel today, he made the urgent plea to all those in attendance to unite in their efforts to spread peace, something he called “one of the greatest bestowals of God.”

The Plaza Hotel, at 1553 North Clark Street in Chicago, was demolished in 1967.


  • http://twitter.com/MarilynSargent3 Marilyn Sargent

    And still 100 years later there is no real movement towards global peace. When? When?

    • http://jmenon.com/ Jonathan Menon

      Do you really think there has been no progress, Marilyn?

      What does everyone else think? Please chime in! 🙂

      • Iansdigby

        I think there has been huge progress. What would happen today if one country tried to invade another cynically and for personal gain, as happened continually in humanity’s past? Why, the UN would get together and, however inelegantly and chaotically, put a stop to it. This is progress beyond measure.

      • Sam Holako

        There has definitely been progress. The process of peace is one of attrition, not an overnight change.

    • Marilyn

      Please read 
      Candace Hill’s comment, that explains with open mind.  Thank you Candace.

  • Candace Hill

    Just because there is still war, does not mean that there has not been progress in making peace.  Peace is a process that requires just as much commitment, funds, staff, energy, dedication, and perseverance.    When you replace a “thought of war with a thought of peace” just as many resources have to be poured into the peace. 

    The fall of the Berlin Wall is a good example of that.  The Wall represented war, but it also represented “not war”.  Although huge armies were massed on either side of the Wall, and much spy craft was present, and many millions of dollars spent, there was no war.  When the Wall came down, it was because the parties involved decided amongst themselves, formally and informally that there was no more appetite for war.  Everyone agreed it was time to pack up and go home.  It took 40 years to create that peace, but peace it is.

    This is how peace has to happen, border by border and wall by wall.  It may take a very long time for the walls to come down between Palestine and Israel.  There may be a lot of rocks thrown, many demonstrations, awful incidents at the gates, etc.  But, when peace is assured, the walls will fall.  AND, there will have been no full out war.

    We are having the NATO Summit here in Chicago next week.  An huge military organization whose whole existence has been to coordinate defense in the face of a brooding Cold War.  What is it’s purpose now?  To prevent war, isolate dictators, contain flash-points, etc.  The NATO “thought of war” has become the NATO “thought of peace.”  Fascinating.

    • Karenzthomas

      Very good explanation Candace.  It is an excellent way to look at the process.

  • Mark Scheffer

    It’s also worthwhile to consider the evolution of the art of war. 40 years ago in Vietnam “score” was still being kept by body count – if it needed to be shown that progress was being made, a village was slaughtered. Now the exact opposite is true – civilian causalities provoke outrage around the world and everything possible is done to avoid them. (Want proof? See the emails from Al Queda proper begging Al Queda Iraq to stop bombing civilians because it was losing the war for hearts and minds.) Humanity has not yet mastered viable alternatives to war, but world opinion has turned decisively against it. We just don’t have the stomach for it anymore. 

  • Robertahodgin

    Sometimes we take our eyes off the prize!

  • Linasmithson

    As a friend said before, it is a process, no doubt that since 100 years ago there is progress, it grows slowly, and we hope that soon we will have outstanding results!

  • Bean in Oregon

    A recent book filled with actual data on the decline in human violence is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker’s historic perspective and the statistical analyses he cites from Human Rights Watch, the Human Security Project, The Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO) and many others cited provide compelling statistical evidence of our slow and consistent progress toward peace. 

    • Rob Sockett

      I’ve been eyeing this book for while. I gather you recommend it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/FreshLetters Jonathan Marshall

    Continual renewel and reminder toward Cause of Universal and lasting Peace!