Michigan man spreads message of peace
Maple City, Mich., — For many, the holiday season represents a time for prayer and peace. But that’s something David Moffat concerns himself with all year long.
Moffat has spent the last 15 years running Peace Pole Makers USA on his wooded property in Leelanau County.
The poles first emerged following World War II, when Japanese pacifist Masahisa Goi came upon an answer to his prayers. In 1955 Goi took his prayer — May Peace Prevail On Earth — and built a peace pole. The pole became a modern version of an ancient tradition in Japan that went back centuries: stacked stones with messages of peace written on them.
The poles became popular throughout Japan, and migrated to the United States in 1986 as an official project of the World Peace Prayer Society in Wassaic, New York. The message was promoted as a prayer to be spread throughout the world and was sanctioned that year by the United Nations during the International Year of Peace. The Prayer Society’s goal is “to spread the universal peace message and prayer far and wide to embrace the lands and peoples of this Earth,” according to its website.
Moffat purchased the company from the first peace pole makers in North America, Carol and Joseph Spaulding of East Jordan. Today he handles production along with his partner, Mary Kay Whalen.
Moffat said he keeps busy constructing orders all year. The busiest time begins in April and runs through September when the International Day of Peace is held. It picks up again in the fall, when orders come in for the holidays, he said.
The business, he said, gets interest from buyers viewing existing poles, and others discovering the company website. There are more than 200,000 peace poles in over 190 countries, Moffat’s site notes.
“Word of mouth is one of our best sales points,” said Moffat, adding the hand-constructed poles take about 12 hours to complete over several days.
The traditional eight-foot pole has four sides, each holding a plexiglass panel with the slogan “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in languages chosen by the buyer. Moffat said there are over 100 languages to choose from for inscription. Years ago, the first poles were produced using mostly English, Spanish, Russian and Japanese.
“We are constantly upgrading our language choices,” he said. “We have Chinese and African dialects, Native American languages, just about any language on Earth.”
Costs vary from $215 for an eight-foot, four-message pole to $3,000 for an engraved eight-sided pole with 16 languages.
John L. Russell is a writer and photojournalist from Traverse City.