March 4, 2010

Kennebunk man keeps Peace Day on schedule

JOHN RICHARDSON

— By

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Wed. Sept.16,2009. Melvin Weiner at his home in Kennebunk for a Q&A.

Staff Writer

Monday is the International Day of Peace. If the holiday is already marked on your calendar, you can thank Melvin Weiner of Kennebunk.

Weiner began his career as a marketing executive while living in a commune in Massachusetts called the Renaissance Community. Now a 60-year-old vice president of marketing and sales at Sellers Publishing, a calendar publisher in South Portland, Weiner has persuaded calendar makers around the world to note Sept. 21 as peace day on hundreds of millions of 2009 calendars.

The United Nations designated the day 28 years ago, and it is now marked with moments of silence, vigils, concerts -- and formal cease-fires -- around the world.

Weiner's volunteer efforts as the world's scheduler of peace led to multiple trips to the U.N. in New York and a continuing role with The Culture of Peace Initiative.

Now that he's put peace on our calendars, he has lots more ideas, from coloring books and peace merchandise to special promotions at bookstores and other retailers.

Who knows, maybe world peace is possible. Maybe it just needed a marketing guy.

Q: Where did your strong feelings about peace come from? Was it the Renaissance Community?

A: My feelings about peace go back to the '60s, when I would go to demonstrations and things like that, things that people in the '60s did. But to me, honestly, they left me kind of flat. There was a lot of anger and violence. It just didn't quite make sense to me. And then I stumbled on this community.

There were no drugs, no alcohol, no tobacco. We were a spiritual community. We meditated and we were working hard to build a new society, at least for ourselves.

Q: How did you go from being a hippie in the commune to a marketing executive for a calendar company?

A: At the beginning, we lived in poverty and ate primarily brown rice and whatever vegetables we could grow. It was extremely back-to-the-land. (As the community grew to hundreds of members), the people had to go out and get jobs. Then we started taking the money we were earning and invested it in businesses we could run ourselves.

Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the idea that we should make Christmas cards, and that became Renaissance Greeting Cards.

In 1981, 15 people from the community left with the greeting card company and moved to Sanford, Maine. I was one of those people and I was the vice president of marketing and sales.

(About 16 years ago), a guy who used to live in The Community had left the greeting card company and started publishing calendars. He (Ronnie Sellers) asked me if I wanted to help him do it.

Q: So is that when you hatched a grand plan to promote world peace on our calendars?

A: If it was a grand plan, it was from somewhere up above. It wasn't from me. I had never heard of the International Day of Peace.

Q: When did you make the connection?

A: Two years ago this week, I was at a trade show where there were a lot of calendar publishers. We were all hanging out together and having a good time in between the events.

I came home from the show and the very next day I got an e-mail newsletter from a woman who used to live in The Community. This particular issue was about the International Day of Peace. I thought, ''this is cool.''

I woke up two days later and it hit me I said, ''Wow, I could get it on calendars.''

I started sending e-mails and making calls to the same people I was hanging out with a few days earlier.

By the afternoon, I had most of the top 10 publishers saying yes, and by the end of the day I had most of the top 20.

I'm really confident in saying we will reach a billion people, and that's this year. For 2010, we'll reach more.

Q: What difference can one day on a calendar make?

A: This could impact everything from church sermons to school curricula to government proclamations. Stores could have promotions around it, people can volunteer

This can be like Earth Day, but for peace. Has (Earth Day) completely changed the world from black to white? No. Has it changed the world from a darker shade of gray to a lighter shade of gray? I think so.

It's bringing peace into people's consciousness. And bringing it into people's consciousness can also bring it into action.

Q: How will you celebrate?

A: Friday, I will be at the United Nations observance for ''Peace Day'' (in New York City).

On Saturday, there's a peace vigil in Central Park. It's a nine-hour-long event with performers and musicians.

Q: And on Monday?

A: I took the day off from work. I'll have a moment of silence and meditate, but I'll probably have some peace to myself and watch parts of the global Webcast on our site.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted to 791-6324 or at:

jrichardson@pressherald.com

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