BEMIDJI -- Everyone has their life dreams, whether it be to own your own company, come up with the next billion dollar idea or maybe to travel the world. What some people lack is the drive to accomplish these dreams, but for Lynn Elling, 91, the drive has not left him as he continues his passionate vision for world peace.
"Any healthy human being can accomplish anything they want to accomplish virtually, as long as it's not something totally off the wall, if they can use their imagination they can do it," Elling said.
Elling visited the Concordia Language Villages Friday, taking part in the rededication of the World Peace Site.
"This place is one of our world class peace sites," Elling said. "We consider this one of the finest in the world, no question about it."
The site, which was first dedicated in 1996, is one of 980 Peace Sights dedicated by the World Citizen Inc., a non-profit organization founded by Elling in 1982. Its mission is to support peace education and the concept of world citizenship.
Peace sites are committed to seeking peace, reaching out through service, promoting an intercultural understanding and being responsible citizens of the world.
Any school or organization is eligible to become a peace site. There are more than 200 sites in Minnesota and over 800 across the world.
Elling has had a long blessed life. He and Donna, his wife of 68 years, were fortunate enough to travel the world promoting this idea of world citizenship.
"I have a driving dream that keeps me going," Elling said. "Donna, God bless her heart, she was such a dear girlfriend, lover and wife for 68 and a half years and her spirit is still with us today."
Elling's vision of world peace first came to him while he was serving as a Navy officer in the South Pacific during World War II.
He served on a landing ship tanker that was designated as a supply ship, allowing him to stay away from first hand battle, something he is grateful for.
"We were always right behind the invasion," Elling said. "I was elated, (but) some guys wanted to be in the war."
The ship Elling was on arrived at Tarawa three months after Operation Galvanic, a battle that took place Nov. 20 to 23, 1943. The battle killed 6,000 Japanese and Americans in the 76 hour campaign.
When off duty, Elling took the time to walk the shore of Tarawa alone to get a feel for it.
"It was just an incredible experience of living and dying," Elling said. "It was horrible. The impression was horrible, complete devastation."
Elling said it was the most horrible scene of carnage and the brutality of warfare. This is where the seed of peace was planted.
"We are all part of one human family," Elling said. "We must somehow or someway figure out the pathway to a peaceful, healthy, sustainable world."
After returning home, Elling got into the life insurance business. Living on straight commission, the job was stressful and he questioned if he could do it.
It was during this time he learned the concept of psycho-cybernetics at a lecture by Maxwell Maltz. It was this concept that inspired Elling to create dreams and visualize accomplishing them.
He took this advice to heart and three years later he became a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable for the Lincoln Financial Group. Through this, he and his wife, Donna, were able to focus on raising the family and enjoying time traveling the world.
Elling's travels have taken him all over the world and even at 91 he continues to promote the idea of world citizenship and world peace. He said if even 20 percent of the schools in the world became peace sites, there could be world peace.
World Citizens Inc. and the idea of peace is one that Elling hopes will continue long after he is gone.
"I think this an open moment in history," Elling said. "I don't think that the human family has ever been in a better position to promote this kind of idea."