Peter Stewart’s dedication to the cause of thanksgiving would be hard to match and what he set in motion singlehandedly has become a worldwide groundswell of gratitude that keeps growing and growing. – Br. David
Peter Stewart might not be a well-known name in the modern day burgeoning gratitude movement, but by some accounts – including Br. David’s – he was an early and most important pioneer of gratitude consciousness worldwide.
In 1976 Thanks-giving Square was dedicated in Dallas, Texas. Peter Stewart was the visionary for this project, bringing a “heart-gathering” place to the center of town: a place of inclusion and diversity, devoted to the spirit and to all that which brings us outside and beyond ourselves. Subsequently, Peter worked towards establishing both a national and a world declaration of thanksgiving, leading to the 1977 General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously voting to have the year 2000 declared theYear of International Thanksgiving. In 2012, Peter was awarded the first Spirit of the United Nations Award for Youth Outreach.
Brother David Steindl-Rast was deeply connected to the Thanks-giving Square project from the very beginning. In the early 1980’s, after a solid basis for the center of thanksgiving had been established in Dallas, Peter thought something more substantial was needed to bring people’s personal thanksgiving to flower. Peter found Br. David’s deep thoughts on thanksgiving and prayer very moving, and suggested that he put some of his thoughts down. He offered his home to Br. David as a writer’s retreat. The result? Br. David’s book, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness.
“Not only did Peter and his charming wife, Betty May, show me the most generous Texan hospitality,” Brother David writes, “but Peter firmly held me to the task of writing that first book of mine. In fact, he insisted that I finish a certain number of pages — I’ve forgotten how many — before i had permission to jump again into his swimming pool. In the end, I was most grateful to my strict taskmaster. And now, decades later, it is with boundless admiration that i look at Peter Stewart. His dedication to the cause of thanksgiving would be hard to match and what he set in motion singlehandedly has become a worldwide groundswell of gratitude that keeps growing and growing.”
Many thanks to Tatiana Androsov for all the information she shared about Peter and the history of his vision and his work, and for her own dedication to her work at the U.N. and for Thanks-giving Square. Peter Stewart died on January 10, 2017, at the age of 97.
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