Where were you 20 years ago this coming November 21?
Many here in Dayton and the Miami Valley knew what was happening out at Wright Patterson Air Force Base yet lots of folks did not.
It was a monumental occasion for the warring factions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Peace in their bitter civil war was at stake.
President Bill Clinton along with his chief negotiator Secretary of State Warren Christopher picked Dayton, Ohio as a neutral location to get the participants at the bargaining table talking and eventually agreeing.
The three-and-a-half-year war was a costly one, taking 250,000 lives and drove 2 million people from their homes.
Our news team at WDTN and other news stations here provided tons of coverage from an event called one of the most challenging U.S. diplomatic efforts since the Civil War.
I was a feature reporter there at the time and thought what I could cover as not to make light of the proceedings which included horrible atrocities and ethnic cleansing.
How about a low-key Dayton welcome with some of our signature products. I thought, they gotta eat.
So, on the phone I went to Mike-Sells Potato Chips, Cassano’s Pizza and Esther Price Candies and other home town goodies. All saying ‘Buch, whatever you need.’
After documenting the pick-up process running all over town, we dropped the booty off at the Hope Hotel at Wright-Pat where the negotiations were taking place.
We had huge boxes of pizza, chips and candies to welcome our guests.
Couldn’t get near the hotel for obvious reasons, security was tight, but we were told our delivery didn’t make it to the participants, rather to the security folks and behind the scenes players who appreciated it very much.
It was a fun story in light of the seriousness of what was happening.
Now some 20 years later it’s time to celebrate the signing with ‘The Dayton Peace Accords @20’ November 18-21.
I’ve been asked to handle media matters and we have a wonderful, dedicated group of volunteer committee members giving of their time and talent to make it a huge success.
Igor Crnadak, Bosnia and Herzegovina foreign affairs minister; Maureen Cormack, U.S. ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Josip Paro, Croatian ambassador to the U.S.; Valentin Inzko, the High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mate Granić, former Croatian vice president; and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, who helped negotiate the Accords, also are among the world leaders scheduled to attend and participate in events.
But guess who else is coming to dinner? The former president himself, Bill Clinton.
He will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon on the first day of the two-day Dayton Peace Accords at 20 Conference Nov. 19-20 on the University of Dayton’s River Campus.
The commemorations kick off at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, with the public dedication of the Ambassador Richard Holbrooke Plaza near the intersection of Salem Avenue and Edwin C. Moses Boulevard.
The late ambassador’s widow, Kati Marton, will be present to assist with the dedication.
Following the first day of the conference, Richard Holbrooke’s son, David, will lead a screening and discussion of The Diplomat, which chronicles the 50-year diplomatic career of his father, at 6:30 p.m. at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. A public reception will follow the screening.
The commemorations end with a 20th anniversary brunch from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Hope Hotel and Richard C. Holbrooke Conference Center. The event is open to the public, but seating is limited.
“An entire generation of children in Bosnia and Herzegovina has had the benefits of peace because of what happened in Dayton 20 years ago. We are proud of Dayton’s place in world history,” said Matt Joseph, Dayton city commissioner and co-chair of the Dayton Peace Accords at 20 committee.
As far as the original agreement it’s still holding up, but a fragile peace it ultimately is. Maybe, just maybe we can come up with some problem solving solutions while everyone is back where it all began. We shall see.
Finally, can’t get away without thanking the University of Dayton, Wright State University, Miami University, Dayton History, Dayton International Peace Museum, Montgomery County, and the City of Dayton, among others for their support in this endeavor.
Dayton is on the map again! We hope you can join us for this monumental event of presidential proportions. Heck, I’ll even spring for the Mike-Sells.
Jim Buch is a local resident and weekly columnist. For more visit www.daytonpeaceaccordsat20.com.