Unification News for February 2000
Celebrating True Parents Birthday
Rev. Philip Schanker
When the idea was first presented for a uniquely American celebration of True Father Rev. Sun Myung Moons 80th birthday, the response from some was less than enthusiastic. As the plans progressed, a constant stream of competing events and projects diverted the staffs attention, while changes in strategy and approach taxed the flexibility of all involved. The huge cost was a challenge to members and departments alike; the program was dangerously long, and last moment confirmations caused a scramble by too many people for too few seats. But the look of deep joy, genuine pleasure and surprise that spread across our Parents faces throughout the evening of their birthday party made every bit of the struggle and sacrifice seem worth it. In the airplane returning to Korea afterward, Father watched video highlights of the event with great interest. Upon arrival there he immediately called National Messiahs and international leaders to Han Nam Dong to watch the tape with him. Asking copies to be made for each nation, Father encouraged everyone to hold a similar celebration, using the American event as a standard. Deep in our hearts we knew that somehow, we had achieved a true victory of elder sonship in the new millennium. But how did it all come about, and what in fact was its significance?
Unificationists around the world generally, and Blessed Couples in particular share the great blessing of having received and attended the True Parents at the close of the 2000-year New Testament era, being those whom the Book of Revelations describes as those who were redeemed from the earth as the first fruits for God and the lamb. [Revelation 14:4] Amazingly, we also have the opportunity to enter a completely new providential age together with Father and Mother. The fact that the opening of the new millennium and new era coincides with the 40th Anniversary of True Parents holy wedding and True Fathers 80th birthday makes this year all the more meaningful. As members across the nation prepared to usher in the New Year, we considered how to express our heart of love and gratitude to True Parents for their investment in America, and how to make Fathers 80th Birthday an eternal source of joy and comfort to them.
The original vision for an American celebration of True Fathers 80th birthday was planted in the heart of Dr. Chang Shik Yang not long after his arrival in Washington, DC as Regional Director in 1996. As Dr. Yang and hundreds of Washington leaders and members began nightly prayers at the national Holy Ground adjacent to the White House, that vision took shape, inspired by a sense of the presence of Washington, Lincoln, King and other patriots, and the guidance of Heung Jin Nim, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Seeing the demoralized state of current American leadership, and considering Rev. Moons 40 years of investment since the arrival of the first missionaries in 1959 and 1960, we felt that some expression from the heart and soul of this nation was called for.
The anointing of America as the elder son nation, meant to care for its siblings and set an example of attendance toward God and True Parents, further sharpened the focus of the proposed celebration. Fathers renewed challenge to America and Christianity, and the special, spiritual role of Jesus in Americas restoration deepened its meaning. If Jesus had reached his own 80th birthday on earth in his lifetime, it would have meant the overcoming of the peoples faithlessness, the fulfillment of his Adamic mission and a completely different history for humanity. But the religious leaders of his day rejected him as a heretic and a false prophet. Their conspiracy against him placed him in the hands of Roman political authority, which crucified him without hesitation. Jesus died the death of a disgraced and lowly criminal, crushed under the heel of the mightiest nation on earth. America was born as a Christian nation, religiously free and diverse yet built upon Judeo-Christian values, to restore this historical tragedy and create the foundation for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
To accomplish this, it became increasingly clear that we should gather religious leadership who genuinely appreciate Fathers lifetime of service to God and humanity, as well as national and international scholars and civic leaders who could testify to the substantial contribution which Father and Mother have made to history and society. Plans for the event solidified when Dr. Yang was appointed by Father to be Continental Director of North America in the summer of 1999, together with a new cadre of youthful leaders here and around the world. Through suggestions and inspirations from many sources, 2 simple goals were crystallized. The first was to express genuine honor and gratitude to True Parents from the heart of the America they have loved and invested so much in. To accomplish this, we endeavored to bring people from all walks of life and from throughout the country who had been deeply touched by True Parents people who would want to be there to say thank you from their heart. From Danbury co-inmates to Korean War veterans to former presidents and prime ministers many, many old friends eventually came to say Happy Birthday.
The second goal was to lift up True Parents in front of an America that has never known or appreciated them by testifying to all that they have substantially accomplished. Through involvement in the celebration by the highest-level leadership, as well as letters and proclamations from across the nation and around the globe, we planned to document the appreciable impact of Fathers life and work. In presenting his achievements, our intention was not to try to inspire religious awe by testifying in a mystical and grandiose way. We planned instead to document by factual, journalistic means the undeniable impact that this man has had on 20th century history. We did not intend to try to convey the mind-boggling array of all of Fathers achievements, or communicate the depth of his suffering and commitment that we, his disciples can appreciate. Our goal was to describe Rev. Moons life, thought and contribution in terms of a few simple themes that define him in a way that can be universally understood and appreciated. The overall theme of the event became the central principle of Fathers teaching and example: Living for the Sake of Others.
Though we intended this program to be our heartfelt offering to True Parents, not Fathers direction to us, his input and inspiration inevitably shaped the program and its goals. Upon first hearing that we intended to make such an offering, Father was extremely happy, noting that the entire birthday celebration should actually have been in the elder son nation of America. His first comment was: Why not hold it at the U.S. Capitol? From that point we felt the importance of Americas political leadership acknowledging Rev. Moons continued investment in this country despite rejection and persecution, and planned a congressional reception as part of our celebration. When we suggested a 3 day conference on the theme Rev. Moons Life, Thought and Contribution, to document Fathers lifelong work in a critical and scholarly way, he extended the providence of international Hoon Dok Hae conferences in Washington, DC from the original 3 to 7, with the final gathering being on the very weekend of our birthday celebration. More than 300 distinguished participants from nearly 100 nations at this final conference joined the birthday celebration as well.
Later, Father inaugurated an additional series of Hoon Dok Hae conferences specifically for America, to help this nations leadership appreciate the depth and insight contained in his teaching. In response to this suggestion, the organizers of the very successful American Leadership Conferences expanded their discussions of Freedom, Faith and Family with American legislators and policymakers to include sessions highlighting the fundamental teaching and ideal of the founder. In this way, they provided an opportunity for American civic and religious leaders to consider how the wisdom contained in Rev. Moons thought might enlighten public policy. Participants in the second of these newly designed conferences also joined the birthday bash, including state legislators from throughout the country. In addition, Father asked specifically for the pioneering work of the International Education Foundation in Russia, Mongolia and China to be presented at the celebration.
Not all were excited and supportive of this event initially, however. Many leaders and members were justifiably concerned that it was just one more banquet, event, or campaign which would cost precious hundreds of thousands, sap the severely taxed time and energy of our members and produce little meaningful result. In addition, great pains needed to be taken to time the American birthday party in coordination with the Korean celebration and Blessing 2000, making sure that our wholehearted tribute did not disrupt or interfere with these important events. It became impossible to hold our celebration early enough to avoid disturbing the February 8-14 WCSF in Korea, while at the same time late enough to include a reception with members of Congress, who were beginning their sessions just shortly before those dates.
In a timely and heroic fashion, The Washington Times Foundation planned its own tribute for its founders 80th birthday, by doing what it does best: recognizing those throughout the country whose contribution to their community has exemplified the founders spirit of freedom, faith, family and service of others. The American Century Awards program on Capitol Hill drew some 120 senators and congressmen to honor the awardees, the values they exemplified and the uplifting contribution of The Washington Times, its National Weekly edition and the Washington Times Foundation. But the appreciation and respect of all present turned warmly to Rev. and Mrs. Moon as the Foundation presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to the new octogenarian. He responded by challenging all present to live for the sake of others, end Gods sorrow and restore the cosmos as humanitys hometown through true love. The moving evening ended with a huge cake, a heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday, and photos of the award recipients together with the founders. More information on this inspiring program, the awardees and the stellar guest list may be obtained in a more appropriate venue. [ editors note: or from The Washington Times Foundation]
All of these plans and events made it possible to restore the failure to honor and uplift Jesus 2000 years ago, to express the heart of the elder son nation toward True Parents, and to comfort the heart of Heaven. The stage was set for the January 22nd program: America Honors Rev. Sun Myung Moon on his 80th Birthday. Ambassadors and diplomats from some 40 nations joined former U.K. Prime Minister Edward Heath, founding President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, representatives from numerous American universities, institutes and societies, state legislators, international scholars and government ministers, and more than 3000 people from across America and more than 100 countries worldwide. Representatives from most of the worlds major faiths also participated in the gala and festive event. At 5:00 p.m., while the lobby of the Washington Hilton and Towers swelled with the excited participants, Father, Mother and their family greeted many of the most distinguished dignitaries at a special VIP reception. Dr. Kaunda read a 6-page poem he wrote in Fathers honor. The lobby was so full, and the lines so long with last-minute registrants, some ambassadors were unable to find the reception! But by 6:15, the packed ballroom and nearly full overflow room buzzed with anticipation. Elegant programs designed by Pierangelo Beltrami highlighted the evenings events and performers. The booklet included birthday greetings from Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams and a City Council resolution detailing Fathers contributions to the District of Columbia, America and the world, proclaiming Live for the Sake of Others Day in his honor. A moving pictorial and written summary of Fathers life and work was also included.
While huge video screens displayed the events specially designed logo and a visual collage of Fathers life, a fanfare called the room to attention. The evenings Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Philip Schanker, brought everyone to their feet as our guests of honor entered the beautifully festooned ballroom with their children and grandchildren. Invited to the stage, Father and Mother received lovely bouquets and cut a huge, 8-tiered cake, representing his 80 years and 8 stages of cosmic victory, while an already tearful audience serenaded them with Happy Birthday to You! Our Parents greeted friends and followers warmly, and Father enveloped Mothers clasped hands, embraced and kissed her. As our honorees returned to their seats, Father Lawrence Feres from Detroit, Michigan offered a simple, heartfelt prayer thanking God for True Parents life and ministry, and for all present to inherit their ideals and example.
In his Welcoming Remarks, FFWPU National President Dr. Tyler Hendricks noted that at 80 years Father is still: ...more vital than any man half his age, with more enthusiasm for life than any budding teenager, more appetite for adventure than an astronaut and more surprises than the greatest Hollywood film. Young children filled the stage, displaying just a few of the nearly 2000 birthday letters and proclamations that we received. The Right Honorable Sir Edward Heath pointed out the economic convenience and family savings due to the happy coincidence of Father and Mothers birthday being on the same day. Noting all that they have achieved, he eloquently led the room in raising glasses of Ginseng Up to toast the past victories and future success of True Parents lives. Following dinner, a chronicle of True Parents life, thought and contribution to America and the world was presented through brief, theme-oriented videos, testimony and performances.
The first video, The Roots of the Movement, simply displayed scenes of the early days in Korea, Japan and America, accompanied by the New York City Symphony, under the baton of Mr. David Eaton. It was followed by Victory for Freedom, a 3 minute overview of Fathers life-long struggle with atheistic communism, revealing his central role in its demise, and his historic encounters with Russias Mikhail Gorbachev and North Koreas Kim Il Sung. Dr. Thomas Ward offered his testimony to the life-changing power of Fathers critique and counterproposal to Marxism, and presented evidence of Rev. Moons unrecognized, behind-the-scenes impact on communisms defeat. The following video, The Power of an Ideal, was an unexpected surprise for many guests. Diplomats, scholars and religious leaders alike were amazed to see how the seeds planted by Father Moons embrace of former enemies had blossomed into the dramatic values education program inaugurated by the International Education Foundation throughout Russia, Mongolia and China.
Fathers contribution to the unity of religion was the next theme highlighted. World Peace through Religious Harmony briefly conveyed the appreciation and respect that many American religious leaders and scholars feel for his commitment of time, energy and resources to this cause. Baptist theologian and pastor Dr. Hycel B. Taylor chronicled Fathers lifetime interfaith work and praised him as truly called by God, placing him in the company of Moses, Jesus and St. Paul. A beautiful musical interlude featured budding singer and actress Mzuri singing Amazing Grace, the New York City Symphony performing Mozarts Divertimento in F Major, and ___ offering one of True Mothers favorites, Song of April, in honor of her birthday. To highlight the next theme, Fathers investment in America, a video, Renewing the American Spirit, reviewed his thankless investment in this country, from speaking tours to Danbury to the True Family Values Ministry, to be followed by a testimony from Neil Salonen. Though time constraints kept them from the evenings program, both were included in the video highlights, and reportedly moved Father deeply.
The final theme, Building True Families, chronicled True Parents fundamental work through the Blessing. Representing all Blessed Families in America, more than 50 members of our second generation, joined by some of their parents, offered a special thank you in song. Then Pastor T.L. Barrett from Chicago warmly testified to True Parents, and called Father to the stage for his keynote address. After the two men embraced, Father looked out to the audience and thanked everyone for spending their entire evening for him. Reflecting on his 80 years of life, he thanked God that he could pass through it all and stand there before everyone. In his message, The Path for America and Humanity in the Last Days, he explained the meaning of living for others, explained Gods love and purpose for America and challenged this nation to fulfill Gods will.
Father concluded his message to thunderous applause, as major religious leaders representing the True Family Values Ministry and ICC mounted the stage to present the World Reconciliation Award to Father. Then Sir Edward Heath and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda were joined by American state legislators and representatives of World Peace organizations founded by Father, to present him with the Peacemaker of the Millennium Award. Founding American Unificationists, together with current and former church presidents, honored Fathers investment in our country with the Forty Years Foundation Award. Father and Mother responded to each presentation by offering a newly printed set of Hoon Dok Hae material to each of the presenters, announcing that the very same gift from True Parents was prepared for each of the evenings guests. Washington Times Editor Wesley Pruden then presented Father with the framed printing plates for the first edition of the Times in the new millennium.
The program was topped off by a command performance of the Universal Ballet Company and the Kirov Academy of Ballet, both founded by True Parents. The highlight was the performance of the Adagio from Swan Lake by Universal Ballet General Director Julia H. Moon and Principle Dancer Dragos Mihalchea. As the stunning finale came to a close, Dr. Bo Hi Pak joined the entire company on-stage to present a shimmering, glass-enclosed statuette to the ballets founders: The Rudolph Nureyev Award for Excellence in the Arts. As confetti showered the room, the audience of 3000 plus sent True Parents off with boisterous cheers of Mansei!
By now, highlights of this joyful occasion have been viewed around the world. We have already moved on to numerous other projects and important events. But everyone who attended had a truly rich and unforgettable experience. Without question, January 22nd, 2000 is a night that we will remember forever. So many diligent brothers and sisters contributed to the great success of this celebration. The Chairman of this event was Dr. Chang Shik Yang, whose vision for this offering never wavered. Vice-Chairman was Dr. Tyler Hendricks, who made himself available to do any job, however humble, to make the evening a success. Though it is not possible to acknowledge everyone, the stunning videos produced by Simon Kinney and Stewart Diamond with input from many sources, the VIP invitation process led by Karen Smith in New York, Susan Fefferman and Antonio Betancourt in Washington, and the overall event coordination by Mike Leone made the birthday celebration possible.
Several media covered the story, and newspapers and wire services picked it up worldwide. Many viewed the program via internet webcast, in fact highlights can still be seen at trueholyday.com. While international media coverage was respectful and positive, more important was what we could feel from True Parents. It is clear that our America Honors Rev. Sun Myung Moon on his 80th Birthday program genuinely gave our True Parents a night to remember.
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