Today in 1935 Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. In 1947 the iconic David Bowie was born in London. And in 1942, during World War Two, the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking was born in Cambridge. In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson announced his Fourteen Points, a plan for peace in Europe after WWI. The Senate refused to ratify the Versailles Treaty and trashed the League of Nations, and the “war to end all wars” didn’t, so war broke out again 21 years later in Europe.

In 1912 the African National Congress was founded in South Africa, which ultimately led to the end of apartheid through the efforts of Nelson Mandela, one of its founders. It wasn’t without great struggle, and personal sacrifice as Mandela would spend 27 years in 3 separate prisons for his actions to combat apartheid and the racist government of South Africa. After his release, he led efforts for peace through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mandela chose to reject revenge and retaliation and instead worked for reconciliation because he cared for his country and believed peace was best. His efforts enabled South Africa to stabilize and grow out of the pariah state it had become in the world. He sets us an example of how to work for the common good.

The European “winners” of WWI were bent on revenge and punishment for Germany, even though there were multiple reasons for the outbreak of war and plenty of blame to go around. The harsh reparations handed out at the end set the stage for economic ruin and resentment in Germany and were partially responsible for the outbreak of war again. In a similar fashion, the relatively unknown Allied action in Archangel and Minsk Russia against the fledgling Soviet government – and in support of the White Russian forces in the Russia Civil War – did much to sour relations between the new Soviet state and the US/Britain, and fueled the eventual Cold War. Check out the Polar Bear Expedition by James Carl Nelson.