Samuel Pisar was born in Poland. When he was 10 years old, Poland was invaded by Germany and Russia. His father’s parents were killed during the conflicts. Samuel was sent to a concentration camp. He became the youngest escapee from a death march.

As the war ended, Samuel received his law degree from Harvard and the Sorbonne. He was awarded U.S. citizenship from the U.S. Congress. His legal practice involved such organizations as the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee. He also represented movie stars and corporate CEO’s. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In a totally different achievement, he wrote the text for Leonard Bernstein’s third symphony.

Samuel Pisar’s guiding principle in his professional practice was fostering engagement. He believed that adversaries would resolve differences if they found some way to engage in mutual interests before they dealt with their more serious differences. He applied his engagement approach in the personal guidance of Presidents Kennedy and Nixon. You can see his influence in President Nixon’s efforts to opening relations with China.

Engagement seems to be a no brainer idea today, but it wasn’t obvious in the cold war era. Engagement requires a faith that mutual understanding can be achieved. It also requires putting aside past grievances and a willingness to start anew. Engagement may not be popular with the general public who don’t believe that engagement will be beneficial. Engagement often requires a trusted neutral party to bring adversaries together.

Think about how engagement can be a goal for each of us in the next year. Who might we engage with? What mutual interests might we have with those with whom we have had past differences? How might these mutual interests lead to a relaxation of our differences? How might engagement lead to a more fulfilling life?

Just imagine how our society might be impacted by engagement efforts at all levels of society from the White House to each of our homes? Just imagine how engagement can impact civility across the world? Just imagine how engagement can help reallocate resources from defense security based upon past differences to prospective security which is focused on the betterment of society for all. 

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“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan

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