By: Joely Ford
Cumberland University announced in the Fall of 2021 their plan to host its very first Peace Forum in honor of Cumberland's famous alumnus and Former United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
Beginning on the first day of October, the university honored the 150th birthday of Cordell Hull, as well as the 76th anniversary of his 1945 Nobel Peace Prize. A former Secretary of State and founding member of the United Nations, Cordell Hull is one of the most vital parts of Cumberland University’s history and all of campus gathered in the front of memorial to honor him in an exceptional and noteworthy way, by hosting speakers, including Former Vice President Al Gore, Cumberland partisan Joyce Vise, Trustees Mayor AC Wharrton and Sam Watcher, and well-known University confidant Mr. Charles W. Bone.
Gore began the inaugural Peace Forum, sharing his family relation with Hull, as he was an incredibly valuable inspiration to Mr. Al Gore and Gore’s grandfather, Allen Gore.
"Cordell Hull, the nation's longest-serving secretary of state, had a vision for world peace that still matters today," Gore said, before the unveiling of a seven foot bronze statue of Cordell Hull placed in front of the steps of Memorial Hall. University President Paul Stumb said, “Perhaps like never before in our lifetime have we had such a need for peace. We can all look to the model that Cordell Hull stood for.”
Cumberland University is known for its remarkable history, and being able to honor Cordell Hull was just the beginning of the month-long peace forum. The Vise Library, named after Harry and Doris Vise, also has a great connection to the former Secretary of State. Harry Vise was born in 1921 in Germany and was the only son of a Jewish Rabb. The Vise home was plundered by Nazis; Harry Vise escaped, but his family was lost in a concentration camp in the late 1930s. Once his father was released, the family soon immigrated to the United States. Experiencing troubles with his visa, Vise inquired about arbitration from Hull, who soon reunited Vise with his family.
Ms. Joyce Vise, a distinguished and accomplished woman herself, wrote a prayer for the event to honor Hull at the Forum. “Cordell Hull was the epitome of a Great American, and my family’s incredible story is evidence of that,” said Vise. “Cumberland University is a remarkable place that helps transform lives of people from all backgrounds. It is a true honor to be part of uniting this great man and alumnus to this important university.
“Cordell Hull was the epitome of a Great American, and my family’s incredible story is evidence of that,” said Vise. “Cumberland University is a remarkable place that helps transform lives of people from all backgrounds. It is a true honor to be part of uniting this great man and alumnus to this important university.”
Three weeks after the celebration commenced, Cumberland University consummated literary history with the appearance of bestselling author Colum McCann, who gave a reading from his latest book, Aperigon. The story embodies the Middle Eastern conflict with a heartwarming story of two men, Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan; destined to be enemies but brought together by the loss of their daughters due to living in a world of violence and corruption.
This demonstration was preceded by McCann’s “Peace Through Storytelling" event held in Baird Chapel, where students from the university were invited to attend to share their stories, ranging from loss, addiction, immigration, and self-discovery. Students were shown perspective and the similarities that are between us instead of the opposition we find ourselves with. That afternoon we entered the chapel as strangers and were left with a feeling of connection and hope. The evening concluded with McCann’s book reading which featured Aramin and Elhana via a Zoom call sharing their stories, with the hope of bringing everyone together with hope, love, and connection.
With a month-long celebration of Peace, the university inspired and taught courage and vision to all of its students. From an award-winning novelist sharing his story of courage, by telling the story of love overcoming grief and hatred; to Cumberland Chaplain Mike Ripski asking and answering the daunting question, “is peace possible?; to former Professor and current Mayor of Lebanon Rick Bell giving a Chapel Chat teaching students the vitality of standing up for your virtues and beliefs, to Former Vice President Al Gore encouraging students to continue pursuing their education at a place where a great law-giver learned the law himself, the Cordell Hull Peace Forum had something for everyone.
When you attend college, you go with the expectations to hone your skills, learn, and develop yourself for the future. Cumberland University demonstrated and made history with this event, and students can only hope for more guidance such as the Peace Forum in the future.