I’ve been glued to the screens of my computer and television today, watching the events in Egypt. I’m pretty much a maggot on this kind of stuff anyway, but it’s all the more compelling if you have some kind of personal connection; somebody you know who is a lot closer to the things that are happening. And many people in Wausau do.
There was a student from Egypt at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau a couple of years ago who had an interesting experience here and left all of us with one, too. It took a lot of courage for him to come to the U.S. and mostly, he needed to get past a lot of warnings and fears that he had picked up about Americans. I suppose that most Egyptians know as much about us as most of us know about them, which isn’t all that much.
But Moustafa Saleh found the people of Wausau to be open and friendly. They wanted peace in the world, the same as the people in Egypt do. He was so moved by it all that he designed a sculpture dedicated to peace to be placed in Wausau. He hopes to have an exact replica to be placed in Egypt someday as a symbolic link between cultures. Think of it like the Statue of Liberty, only different and smaller.
It’s one thing to design a sculpture while you’re in a foreign country and it’s quite another to actually get it built. But with a lot of help from a lot of friends – and plenty that he made along the way toward his goal – Moustafa got it done before he had to head back home.
Once they heard about it, community leaders supported the idea, along with a few foundations, a couple of churches, some companies and hundreds of individuals. One local man donated more than 1,000 hours of engineering and design work to build a tabletop model of the sculpture so people would know what Moustafa was talking about. From that point forward, it was a big batch of stone soup.
After months of presentations and fundraising, NTC welding students constructed the steel base. A construction company donated their services in designing the foundation. An electrical contractor supplied lighting fixtures at cost and donated installation services. A printer provided design and print services at very modest costs. A custom steel company built the piece, discounting their services. A metal finishing company applied the finish. Retailers sold tee shirts that were silk-screened by volunteers.
There were many more and I’m deliberately not mentioning names because some person or organization would most certainly be left out. A lot of people had big and little pieces of this piece for peace that was dedicated in November 2009 before a crowd of around 150 that included representatives of the State Department and the Egyptian consulate.
It will outlive us all and even today, the Peace Sculpture has almost 1,700 Facebook friends and you can be one, too:
And so today, I can’t help but think of the Peace Sculpture and Moustafa Saleh, back in Egypt. And I wish him peace.