University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
Monday, November 9, 1987
Eternal Flame of UCSB Relit at Ceremony
By Chris Ziegler
UCSB's "eternal flame" monument was lit Friday afternoon by the mayors of Santa Barbara and Yalta, USSR, in a ceremony intended to help promote understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Led by Chancellor Barbara Uehling, the ceremony was part of a five-day visit to the Santa Barbara area by Yalta Mayor Nikolai Sementchuk. The Soviet mayor's visit was primarily organized to consolidate a sister-city relationship between Santa Barbara and Yalta.
The eternal flame, which was given to UCSB by the class of 1969, was turned off in 1985. American Peace Movement organizer David Crockett Williams III, who sat beneath a nearby tree reciting a Native American peace chant during Friday's ceremony, had proposed the idea of relighting the eternal flame. Eventually, the concept of relighting the flame was coupled with the Santa Barbara-Yalta sister-city project and the ceremony was planned.
At the event, Uehling welcomed Sementchuk to UCSB, saying that "this flame was constructed to remind us of the need for peace."
Santa Barbara Mayor Sheila Lodge pointed to the need for a stronger general understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union, calling Friday's ceremony a "symbol of new beginnings of friendship between our two countries."
Speaking through Randell Magee, UCSB lecturer in Russian, Germanic, Oriental and Slavic languages, Sementchuk said that "it is a great pleasure to participate in the great understanding." He then proceeded to relight the eternal flame in the midst of approximately 100 ceremony attendants. Sementchuk's first match was blown out by a gentle breeze, but his second match was successful. Afterward, Uehling said that although "it would take many efforts to increase (American-Soviet) understanding," the relighting of the eternal flame and the establishment of the sister city relationship are positive moves toward this goal, in addition to being something in which the UCSB community could directly participate.
When asked about the possibility of UCSB faculty members or students visiting the Soviet Union now that the sister-city relationship has been finalized, Uehling said this idea has not been discussed yet, but she did not rule out the possibility.
Several students at the ceremony expressed approval of the sister-city relationship. "I think it's a good idea," senior Mark Allen commented.
However, the Soviet mayor's three-member delegation has encountered protesters who disapprove of Yalta as the choice for Santa Barbara's sister-city.
Many Eastern Europeans view Yalta, the location of an historic conference held in February 1945 between the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, as a symbol of the United States' betrayal of Eastern Europe. At the Yalta Conference, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin agreed to allow the Soviet Union to have a "sphere of influence" in Eastern Europe.
Approximately 40 protesters attended the relighting ceremony. Many said they did not object to the relighting of the flame, rather, it is the presence of the mayor of Yalta and the idea of Santa Barbara being Yalta's sister-city that they oppose.
"We have no quarrel with the Russian people, but their Bolshevik government is very bad," said Dr. Nikolay Altankov, a native of Bulgaria.
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Note the reporter mistook my chanting of Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo for a native American chant. Also, to clarify, after the 1984 Isla Vista Fall Festival events when we made a ceremony with the peace pole for the relighting of the UCSB eternal flame, then Chancellor Huttenback in early 1985 did relight the flame in a public ceremony but the wind kept blowing it out so they turned it off again in 1985. After the relighting ceremony above, the wind also kept blowing it out but passersby would relight it. Before the installation of the Hiroshima Peace Flame in a ceremony during the 1990 Rainbow Uprising Campaign, an appeal to the campus enabled the facilities department to put an electric spark igniter on the monument so that when the wind blows the flame out it is relit again by the electric spark with a few seconds or so.
The University of California which designs America's nuclear weapons has not put a priority or ingenuity behind this more, to find a way to keep this peace flame lit constantly without the wind blowing it out?