Peace Day: A Chicago Institution

Read about Peace Day Chicago’s founder, history and cultural connections in this article published in SMITHSONIAN Center for FolkLife & Cultural Heritage Magazine.

Peace Day in Chicago brings communities and cultures together to take positive action for peace. It is an opportunity for each of our 77 neighborhoods to be represented and showcase the incredible diversity of our city and world.

Chicago was a pioneer when it began the annual observance of Peace Day on Sept. 7, 1978. Founded by The Peace School, a not-for-profit serving Chicago and the world for more than 50 years, Peace Day Chicago has been held in cooperation with the United Nations since 1981 when the International Day of Peace was established. The Peace School is a United Nations Peace Messenger organization. The Chicago Build the Peace Committee has expanded Peace Day’s reach in Chicago including annual peacebuilding activities in Chicago Public Schools.

Peace Day shines a light on the unique contributions each one of us can make for a new vision of Chicago: the day when Chicago is known around the world as a Model City of Peace.


The mission of the Chicago Build the Peace Committee is to promote the values, attitudes, behaviors and institutions that build the peace in individuals, families, schools, neighborhoods and the city as a whole.  CBTPC is a committee of The Peace School, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) educational organization.

Honorary Chair
Mayor Brandon Johnson

Honorary Co-Chairs

  • Nancy Andrade, Chair/Commissioner, Chicago Commission on Human Relations
  • James L. Bennett, Director, Illinois Department of Human Rights
  • Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia, U.S. Congressman, 4th District of Illinois
  • Pedro Martinez, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
  • Amb. Reyna Torres Mendivil, Consul General of Mexico and Dean, Chicago Consular Corps
  • Maria Pappas, Cook County Treasurer
  • Toni Preckwinkle, President, Cook County Board
  • Juan Salgado, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago


  • Jennifer Kim, Committee Chair, The Peace School
  • Victoria C. Brady, ABJ Civic Arts Center
  • Henry Cervantes, The Peace Exchange
  • Mónica Félix, Ph.D., Chicago Cultural Alliance
  • Lydia Howe, The Peace School
  • Sana’a Hussien, United Nations Association – Chicago
  • Patricia Merryweather-Arges, Rotarians in Action in Chicago
  • Nitha F. Nagubadi, Psy.D., Culture City
  • Michael Ma, WorldChicago
  • Burrell Poe, Chicago Peace Fellows
  • Haldis Toppen, Greenheart International
  • Credell Walls, Forest Preserve District of Cook County

 History of Peace Day in Chicago

Chicago pioneered the celebration of Peace Day and serves as a model for cities throughout the world.  Three years before the United Nations established the International Day of Peace, Chicago designated an official Peace Day on September 7, 1978.  Chicago is the only major city in the world with such a long history of peacebuilding through annual Peace Day events, and is an official United Nations Peace Messenger city.  The Peace School, the founding organization of Peace Day in Chicago, is a U.N. Peace Messenger organization.

Peace Day has been officially celebrated in Chicago every year since 1978 through the work of The Peace School, a not-for-profit educational organization. All of Chicago’s mayors have supported Peace Day since its inception.

During the 1980s, The Peace School worked continuously to include other cities and states in the celebration by asking mayors and governors to join Chicago in proclaiming Peace Day.  By the late 1980s, proclamations had been issued by governors in all 50 states and mayors in over 540 U.S. cities.

In 2008 the Chicago Build the Peace Committee was formed to continue planning and expanding Peace Day activities.  The Committee has assembled a committed group of Honorary Co-Chairs to support its mission of building a Culture of Peace in the City of Chicago. Peace School director Jennifer Kim, who chairs the Chicago Build the Peace Committee, also works in cooperation with the International Day of Peace NGO Committee at the United Nations.

Daley Plaza, in the heart of downtown Chicago, has been the venue for many of Chicago‘s annual Peace Day celebrations.  Other venues have included the Kluczynski Federal Plaza, the Harold Washington Library Center Auditorium and the Chicago Cultural Center.  In 2008, Peace Day was commemorated in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park at the opening of the 10th annual Chicago World Music Festival.  Also in 2008, Peace Day was officially commemorated for the first time by Chicago Public Schools.

Peace Day in Chicago was born from the vision of The Peace School’s founder, MyungSu Y.S. Kim (1927-1999). His idea: to set aside one day each year for people of all ages, backgrounds, faiths and cultures to join in focusing their wishes, thoughts or prayers on peace for the entire planet.  At the start, the establishment of Peace Day in Chicago was viewed as the first step toward making Chicago a Model City of Peace.  We invite all Chicagoans to join this effort to mainstream a Culture of Peace in Chicago.