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 The Nimitz Way trail in Tilden Park, Berkeley, CA. Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

The Nimitz Way trail in Tilden Park, Berkeley, CA. Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

The Way of Freedom

It is the main duty of government, if it is not
the sole duty of government, to provide means of
protection for all its citizens in the pursuit of happiness
against the obstacles, otherwise insurmountable,
which the selfishness of individuals
is liable to interpose to that pursuit. —Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.


Tilden Park traverses the top of the Berkeley Hills encompassing over 2,000 acres. Charles Lee Tilden, an attorney, local businessman and community organizer, led the way to make sure that this land would be preserved for future generations of Bay Area residents to enjoy. In 1936, during the severe economic times of the Great Depression, Tilden bought the first sixty acres of this land at $35 per acre to show his commitment and encourage others to contribute.

While at a friend’s house this weekend, I noticed a book on the shelf under the television: “The Conquering Tide, War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944” by Ian W. Toll. I picked it up to wander the contents, having heard of Ian Toll from a friend and therefore curious about his writings. I came across a photo of four military leaders of the time: Sutherland, Nimitz, Ghormley, and Harmon. Nimitz is seated at a table with the others standing either side. He’s pointing at a spot on the map spread across the table, no doubt going over battle strategy. Admiral Chester Nimitz is one of my personal heroes. I have a remote connection with him as a Rotarian. He joined the Rotary Club of Berkeley back in the 1920’s when he was Captain Nimitz and remained a member of Berkeley Rotary for the rest of his life. I am a member of that Club as well, and proud to know that Admiral Nimitz was a fellow Rotarian.

 The Berkeley Rotary Peace Grove. Photo courtesy of Berkeley Rotary

The Berkeley Rotary Peace Grove. Photo courtesy of Berkeley Rotary

In 1955, our club planted a Peace Grove of one hundred Giant Sequoias at the top of the Nimitz Way trail at Tilden Park in Berkeley. Each year, Berkeley Rotary places a plaque at the foot of one of these great trees in honor of an individual or organization that has significantly contributed to world peace in the previous year.

At the end of the Nimitz Way is the abandoned Nike Ajax antiaircraft missile site. The trail leading to the Peace Grove is named after Admiral Nimitz because he often walked along this path in mindful solitude in the years after the War. He scattered wildflower seeds as he walked. This peaceful habit demonstrated his strong principles. One cannot simply say “Peace, brother,” as the flower children of the ‘60s chanted. Peace is more than a word. Like love, the words, “I love you,” carry no weight without action to back them up.

Nimitz knew that freedom does not come nor is it preserved by the inaction of those who merely sit at protests waving signs with words scrawled in bold letters: Peace. Love.

Words alone cannot stop the viral ways of violence nor the ignition of war. Nimitz used his prowess to lead an entire naval fleet to extinguish the flames of war and stand against those who threatened our freedom.

A friend once told me that to be successful in life, I should study battle plans of victorious generals. Nimitz taught me that peace comes to those who sow the seeds of freedom on soil hard won.

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Cover photo by Kathleen Franks

Background image by Getty Images

© 2014 - 2017 Kathleen Franks