Once reflective of the name commonly associated with World War I; “The War to End All Wars,” the Vision of Peace now represents an ideal which is yet to come to fruition. As the name would suggest, this monument does not commemorate war, rather, serves as a hope for peace after four years of global violence and bloodshed.
The monuments’ creator was a sculptor from Sweden named Carl Milles who was a devout pacifist. Milles’ views on war were largely born out of two key factors: his father’s military service as an officer in the Franco-Prussian War and his country’s stance of neutrality throughout World War I.
Located in the entrance to the Ramsey County Courthouse, the hallway in which the monument sits is known as Memorial Hall. As if the monument itself were not noticeable enough, the brightly lit room further ensures that one does not miss this unique and intricate design.
The monument consists of a 36 feet tall statue of an Indian god carved out of Mexican onyx with one hand extended out as a sign of friendship with the other holding a smoking pipe blowing the “vision of peace” into the air for all to experience with the senses. At its base is a group of American Indians engaged in a traditional religious ceremony worshipping the God of Peace.
In addition to the monument, the two walls facing it are inscribed with the names of all Gold Star Ramsey County natives who served in the Great War. As was common with World War I monuments and memorials, the names are listed alphabetically, with no reference made to military rank or hierarchy.
Although this monument was originally dedicated to World War I veterans, it began to expand its commemorative subjects after the Veterans of Foreign Wars lobbied it to do so. Today, the monument includes Gold Star veterans from Ramsey County who served in all wars from World War I to the present, as well as the three major American Indian tribes from Minnesota.
In addition to changes in the commemorative subjects, the monument was rededicated in 1994 as the “Vision of Peace”. The name change came in response to its original name; “God of Peace,” being viewed as misleading due to the fact that World War I became a mere precursor to World War II just two decades later.
Although the idea of a God of Peace could be misleading in this context, would the name Vision of Peace also fit this description, given that the monument commemorates war veterans who were killed in action, and that the wars included have continued to multiply over the past century?
Regardless, as one walks around Memorial Hall and views the walls with the names of veterans from all wars from World War I to the present, one cannot help but conclude that World War I has become a mere afterthought in American memory a century later. The fact that it has failed to live up to its name as “the War to End All Wars” and has come to include a half dozen additional major wars certainly makes it appear so. Perhaps one day, the Vision of Peace will come to fruition.