Hope Elizabeth May

Professor Dr. Hope Elizabeth May, Central Michigan University

When I think of Steven van Hoogstraten’s significant contributions during his tenure as Director of the Carnegie Foundation of the Netherlands, I am reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1946 article ‘The Importance of Background Knowledge in Building for the Future.’ She writes, ‘[j]ust having a few people in government take an interest in trying to achieve peace is never going to achieve peace, it has to be done by the interest of the people, and unless all the people - the men who work on the farms, the men who work in the factories, the scientists and teachers, and all the people who make up a nation - take an interest, we will fail.’ In his 2003 Hague Academy General Course on Public International Law, Judge Theodor Meron developed this important point to include the public’s understanding of international humanitarian law. Proposing that the norms undergirding humanitarian law become ‘part of the public conscience,’ Judge Meron also reminded us that ‘[t]his job cannot be left to lawyers alone.’ Mrs. Roosevelt’s comment focuses on ‘Peace’, and Judge Meron’s focuses on ‘Law’, but the Hague Tradition connects both of these concepts and envisions Peace through Law.

I want to highlight one aspect of Mr. van Hoogstraten’s work that absolutely acknowledges these insights of Mrs. Roosevelt and Judge Meron. Mr van Hoogstraten understood - and still understands - that the project of Peace through Law includes the involvement and education of the public.  When the Peace Palace turned 100 years old in 2013, Mr. van Hoogstraten seized on that moment and, with his able and talented team at the Carnegie Foundation, engaged the public to share in the centenary through myriad events: symposia, music, exhibitions, etc.

I must also point out that Mr. van Hoogstraten has been instrumental in drawing attention to the contribution of women to the Peace through Law project, notably Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914) and Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929) - who are now memorialized (the only women to date) within the halls of the Peace Palace.  A second, public monument to Bertha von Suttner, also commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation and unveiled in 2013,  helps to educate countless individuals about the importance of this historic figure to the movement which led to its symbolic home in The Hague known as The Peace Palace, or as Andrew Carnegie preferred, the ‘Temple of Peace.’

Since 2013, Mr. van Hoogstraten has continued the path of public engagement by working with the Bertha von Suttner Project and the Peace Palace Library in organizing public lectures and ‘Master Classes’ so that ‘ordinary people’: students, community members, teachers from around the world, are able to connect the present normative framework to the past, and to remember that the ancestry of ‘international cooperation’ has its roots in the goal of Peace through Law tradition of The Hague. My undergraduate students from Central Michigan University - a public university in the so called ‘midwest’ of the United States - still refer to his engaging philosophical conversations about the meaning of Peace and its relationship to Justice.

On July 4, 1899, U.S. Ambassador Andrew Dickson White convened an event for the delegates of the 1899 Hague Peace Conference at the tomb of Hugo Grotius in nearby Delft. Using the symbolic history of the majestic tomb, Ambassador White urged the delegates to ‘go on with the mighty work' commenced by Grotius over three hundred years prior, and subsequently inherited by the delegates to the 1899 Conference. The delegates heeded that message and the work of that initial conference was the seed which helped to grow the Carnegie Foundation of the Netherlands and the Peace Palace, and, eventually, to a chapter in Steven van Hoogstraten’s life. Worldwide events do indeed touch individual lives.

Like Ambassador White, Mr. van Hoogstraten has used and built upon the symbolic history of the Peace Palace at a crucial time in the development of the Temple of Law and International Ethics. Steven van Hoogstraten has helped us to ‘go on with the mighty work’ in a way that reminds us that two important stones in this Temple are public education and involvement, and an historic narrative of the Peace through Law movement that duly recognizes the labors of both men and women.

Hope Elizabeth May

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