Melvin E. Duncan ’72

2006 Distinguished Citizen Award

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For more than 30 years, Mel Duncan has worked locally and internationally for peace, justice and the environment, or in his own words, "I have worked with people in pursuing dreams and sharing miracles my whole life."

Soon after graduation, he helped to found Advocating Change Together (ACT), an organization through which people with disabilities lobby on their own behalf. In 1988, with future Sen. Paul Wellstone, Duncan co-founded the Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action, to work on economic and social justice, the environment and human rights. At the personal level, he and his wife, Georgia, have formed an extraordinary family of eight adopted children who came from circumstances of great challenge.

As a Bush Foundation Fellow, Duncan devoted a year and a half to studying grassroots organizing and spirituality, ending at Plum Village monastery in southern France, home to Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. There Duncan first envisioned a global peaceforce. Working with like-minded co-founder David Hartsough, they inaugurated Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP, www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org) in Surajkund, India in 2002, and soon sent the first peaceforce to Sri Lanka, site of a 20-year civil war.

Philosophy Professor Henry West wrote of Duncan, "He is one of my heroes for his work on world peace abroad, on social justice issues at home and as a loving parent."

Headquartered in St. Paul and Brussels, NP is an international federation of 93 organizations whose mission is "to build a trained, international civilian peaceforce committed to third-party nonviolent intervention." Unarmed NP field team members use proven nonviolent strategies to protect human rights, deter violence and help create space for local peacemakers to work.