By Nino Paoli, student writer - June 14, 2023

Outside the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center stands a persimmon tree grown from the seeds of its predecessor that survived the United States’ bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

Just as OSU’s Hiroshima Peace Tree honors two Hiroshima survivors, memorializing a legacy of peace and rebirth, faculty and students from the College of Liberal Arts have achieved another benchmark in upholding a legacy of peace within the Corvallis community by advocating for the divestment in companies that profit from the production of nuclear armaments.

The Peace Tree specifically recognizes Dr. Hideko Tamura Snider and June Ikuko Terasaka Moore. Hideko facilitated the planting of the Peace Tree, before the Oregon Department of Forestry assumed the responsibility of introducing Hiroshima peace trees to communities around the state.

The “Seeds of Peace” event held at the APCC on May 18, concluded with individuals tying ribbons in bows to the Peace Tree, and ladling water onto it afterwards, a tradition of Hiroshima, Nagasaki commemorations.

Months prior, on Nov. 10, 2022, the City of Corvallis signed and passed a resolution to divest from companies that produce weapons of war. Professor Linda Richards, who teaches a class titled “Why War,” and students working with her, Peace Interns Claire Nelson and Mahal Miles, played an integral role in the formation of the divest resolution.

“(The divest resolution) is very simple, and says: the city will not invest in companies that are identified as being companies that profit from weapons manufacture,” Richards said.

“My main part was meeting with the team, creating our resolutions, what we were asking for as citizens of Corvallis and what we were asking for citizens of Corvallis who want peace,” Nelson said, who graduated with a bachelor’s in political science in June 2022. The group that brought the finalized resolution to bar any future investments in armaments production, Corvallis Divest From War, was composed of military veterans, professors at OSU, teachers and other Corvallis citizens, Nelson said.

“I was certainly representing the student body of Oregon State University for the Corvallis Divest From War group,” Nelson said. “I was just kind of bringing my perspective as a university student, and hopefully using my power as a student as part of the divestment.”

Nelson said that she became a peace intern for class credit after getting to know and working with Richards in her Why War class – which is listed as HIST 317, and is a core elective class for the School of History, Philosophy and Religion Peace Certificate.

“We actually didn't know when we started this process, that the City of Corvallis didn't have investments in any weapon companies, so it actually was a win for the city to discover that as well,” Richards said. “We want people to consciously realize what work is going towards militarism and how can we move those resources into surviving the climate crisis and creating more justice. If we don't do that work of understanding what's being invested currently, how will we change it, if we're not even having that conversation?”

Nelson said her time as a peace intern caused her to become much more aware of the emotional, physical and environmental costs of war, and appreciates Richards’ work towards education of the damages of war and the benefits of peace.

“I think it's important to learn about peace, because we so often learn about war … We never learn about how to encourage peace and about how to prevent war,” Nelson said. At OSU, students can learn more about peace with the SHPR Peace Certificate.

Richards and the peace interns’ work have strengthened the legacy of peace on campus symbolized by the descendant persimmon of Hiroshima growing outside the APCC, inviting incoming students into the conversation.

Sloan Harmel, a first-year political science major taking Richards’ peace strategies – PAX 301 – class this spring, said the Seeds of Peace event was incredibly powerful.

“I found it a great reminder of common humanity and the ability to move past and work through those things,” Harmel said.

Harmel plans to speak at a commemoration event of the bombing in August.

“Being in (Richards’) class, being able to see everything that OSU does to try to bring awareness to these events and try to prioritize those stories and making sure the commemoration doesn't die definitely inspires me,” Harmel said. “It definitely is an encouragement to me to know that we're a part of that legacy.”