Closing Keynote: Tom Oliver

NUCHR’s 2013 Conference ended with keynote speaker Tom Oliver, Founder and CEO of the World Peace Festival. Oliver talked about using business models as a catalyst for social change and emphasized the power of the individual in dealing with issues of conflict and peace.

Oliver began with a video from the PUMA.Peace project, which commissioned seven international filmmakers to create work for the 2011 World Peace Festival.


The videos focus on the concept of “peace starts with me,” which Oliver further explained during his talk. With society’s increased global connectivity, individuals now have greater power to make lasting, sustainable change. To facilitate this change, Oliver offered three pieces of advice:

Be one with your energy
“To be peaceful means to be at peace with yourself. Peace starts with inner peace.”
Oliver believes that every person is inherently good, and that conflict is unnatural. He suggested that humans could learn a lot from animals and their natural sense of cooperation.   Following this interpretation, the underlying energy behind conflict is always good, but it is often impeded. Oliver’s personal experience suggests that channeling one’s energy through productive outlets can help achieve inner peace. This serves as the foundation for taking further action.

The ideal vision exercise
“I want you to experience the most fulfilled reality you can, because we’re so used to thinking in terms of Plan B.”
In his ideal vision exercise, Oliver asked the audience to take 2-20 minutes this weekend to write down their ideal visions of what their lives could look like if everything went as ideally as possible — over the course of 5, 10, 0r 15 years. He said, “world peace starts in your mind,” and this vision should include both personal goals and one’s desired contribution to humanity. The objective of this exercise is to motivate people to dream big — the many conflicts in the world cannot be overcome with self-limitation. Oliver described the purpose of this exercise in the following quote: “A good friend of mine said, ‘Most people dream too small.’ And I agree…. If you have a powerful and compelling vision you can share that with others, and they will respond.”

One thousand helping hands
“One thousand helping hands will come to help you realize your goal.”
Oliver believes that anyone can work towards world peace, regardless of their connections, budget, and other resources. He reiterated, “Once you start believing in your ideal vision, others will believe in it too,” and said that his best piece of advice is to “start with one person” when seeking support. Oliver recounted his experience of meeting with one professor, which then opened several doors and helped him attain all of his accomplishments to date.

Oliver ended on a positive note, with the expectation that “peace will become the new green.” He believes that, similar to the bottom-up sustainability movement, consumers’ interest in world peace will inform the actions of big business. While he acknowledges that the world still has a ways to go, Oliver expressed his hope that such a movement will begin shortly. He encouraged the audience to “look where [they] want to go” and to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Through cooperation and practical idealism, Oliver believes we can make meaningful progress towards peace in the years to come.

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One thought on “Closing Keynote: Tom Oliver

  1. This blog is a great resource and very thorough. It’s grown so much since I was Co-director in 2010! How can I donate directly to NUCHR for next year’s conference and other programming?

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