“Giving Back this Fall “
Written by Anne Valgoi
A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, Kristen, was married to the man of her dreams! Their wedding ceremony and reception was filled with love, family, friends and many elegant white roses. White roses are a symbol for true love but roses (for me) have an additional representation of “peace” as well as love.
The Martin Luther King (MLK) Peace Rose Garden is my special place, not just for myself but for the many visitors who frequent the beautiful and impactful grounds. Each week a small group of us (known as the “Snippetts”) from the Atlanta Woman’s Club (AWC) led by my friend, Penny Blackford, snip the spent blooms from May through early November. The AWC volunteers their time and expertise with this World Peace Rose Garden to help maintain the lovely blooms and enhances the visitor experiences of the 1.7 million who come from all over America and the world to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta. The “I Have A Dream” World Peace Rose Garden is in front of the Visitor Center in the Peace Plaza at 450 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta.
We have just under 100 magnificent roses in the garden with several varieties of color which include floribunda, hybrid tea, Grandiflora, shrub and David Austin roses. This garden was established in 1992 and is a partnership project between the International World Peace Rose Gardens (co-creators: TJ David and Sylvia Villalobos) and the National Park Service. Presently there are nine International World Peace Rose Gardens located in Mexico, Italy, China, as well as California and Atlanta.
The MLK’s “I Have A Dream” Atlanta peace garden’s composition runs deep with meaning as the rose is a global symbol of peace. “The starburst design of the rose garden represents the brilliance of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and the impact of his ideas on humankind. The pink roses in the center row represent Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s oneness with Dr. King and her continuation of his work. Note that these roses are in perfect alignment with Dr. and Mrs. King’s gravesite located directly across Auburn Avenue at The King Center. The rows that border on the right and the left side of the center row are a tribute to the special bond and similarity of peace movements between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. The band of red roses weaving its way throughout the garden honors African Americans and their contributions to the rich history of the United States and the world. Lastly, the various clusters of multi-colored roses symbolize the diverse cultures, nations, faiths, and religions of the world and the universal appeal of Dr. King’s inspirational message of peace through nonviolence”.
During my visits to work in the rose garden, I often meditate on world peace and the impact that Dr. King had on society. From the rose garden, you can often hear Dr. King’s inspirational speeches in the background as they play from across the street where the tomb of Dr. King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King is located. Insightful messages of peace are placed on plaques that are situated between the roses on the walkway to create “points of inspiration” for the visitors. Students are invited annually to write poems about the ideals of Dr. King, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, or on an aspect of peace or how their lives have been impacted. Students from Atlanta, California, China, India, Gaza, Washington DC, and Alabama participated in the 2019 program. The top poems are selected and do appear in the rose garden for all to see and reflect upon.
It is a good feeling to give back, volunteer, in the community but I believe my friends and I receive as well. Each week we continue to meet new and interesting people (visitors) from the states and around the world. This week we met a lovely young group from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam that are visiting as well as studying international relations over the next 6 weeks at Kennesaw University. They were very grateful to be experiencing this opportunity and even asked if they could take a photo with us! We also enjoy meeting the many wonderful family reunion groups (with matching tee-shirts) that are at the MLK center each week. They often express their thanks to us for maintaining the garden. Additionally, I frequently facetime from the rose garden two special people who LOVE flowers as much as I do: my sweet grandson, Nolan, who will be two years old next week and my dear mother-in-law, Erika. They appreciate seeing the spectacular rose blooms and the serene beauty each week. Did you know that roses are the national flower of the United States and the state flower of Georgia?
I encourage each of you to begin or continue to volunteer and “give back” to your community. Trust me, there is no better feeling in the world. Additionally, please consider joining the Atlanta Woman’s Club, one of the oldest non-profit woman’s organizations in Atlanta. We are a non-profit philanthropic organization made up of professional women of all ages, races, and religions who share a common goal of working together to improve our local community both socially, physically, culturally and educationally.
Here is to a purposeful week of peace, love, and volunteering!