In 1995 Dayton was chosen as the site of what came to be known as the Dayton Peace Accords. The accords were
a last-ditch effort to stop the ethnic cleansing that had claimed more than 300,000 lives and displaced 1
million people. It was “the worst killing ground in Europe since World War II,” wrote Mr. Richard Holbrooke
in his 1998 book To End a War.
Ambassador Holbrooke chose Dayton as the summit site, an unimpressive alternative to opulent settings in
Geneva, Paris, or Washington. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest in the country, provided stark
accommodations for the nine participating delegations, sealed off the press, and displayed America’s air power.
This environment augmented Holbrook’s use of the “Big Bang” strategy—now known in diplomacy circles as a
“Dayton”—where negotiators are locked in a room until they reach an agreement.
Daytonians welcomed the negotiators and then formed human peace chains around the base, holding candlelight
vigils throughout the 21 days of talks. Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph described Dayton’s response,
“People reacted. There was a fire in Bosnia and it was brought to our neighborhood. We took our garden
hoses and tried to put it out. We just acted like neighbors. That’s what we do in Dayton. If they’re
in trouble, we’re in trouble.”
What happened between Dayton and Bosnia after the accords were reached is especially noteworthy. In looking
for ways to keep the “spirit of Dayton” alive, community members established citizen-to-citizen relationships
with Bosnians through cultural and educational exchanges, trade missions, and international conferences between
policymakers and government officials. Dayton also arranged a sister-city agreement with Sarajevo and hosted
a “Concert for Peace” with the Sarajevo and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestras.
“We are 5,000 miles away and made a difference for people no one every heard of, and in a place almost no one
knew was there,” says Commissioner Joseph. “We were chosen, and we took up the cause.” Community leaders
created the Dayton Peace Prize in 1999 to recognize individuals who contributed to the peaceful reconstruction
of a society torn apart by war. Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1999), William Jefferson Clinton (2000), George Soros
(2002) and Richard Holbrooke (2005) were recipients.
The Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation is the successor to the Dayton Peace Prize. The DLPP is dedicated
to celebrating the power of the written word to forge peace. Daytonians witnessed that words not guns stopped
a war. An all-volunteer committee researched the award, discovering that only two other peace prizes existed
in the world and no literary peace prize existed in the U.S. DLPP established the only international literary
peace prize in the country. The DLPP annually presents awards in Distinguished Achievement, Fiction and Nonfiction,
each winner receiving a $10,000 honorarium and the runners-up in Fiction and Nonfiction receiving $1,000.
Publishers and writers immediately responded to the call for nominations. DLPP established a cadre of first
readers and final judges, brought together universities in support of the awards, appealed to corporations,
businesses, local government and individuals in the Dayton area to launch the first award ceremony. The DLPP
board asked award-winning local sculptor Michael Bashaw to create an award. Bashaw created a brass sculpture
that evokes paper and quill and is inscribed with the author’s name and book title and the word “peace” in over
The announcement of the first prize was picked up by 244 newspapers throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia,
Africa, the Middle East and Australia. The DLPP has continued to enjoy media attention during its eight-year
history. Some of the coverage is available on the website www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org under
Over the last seven years, DLPP has recognized writers born in and writing from the perspective of Australia,
Bosnia, China, England (3),The Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Jamaica, Korea, Nigeria (2), Peru, Romania,
South Africa and the United States (23). We have received nominations from over 100 publishing houses, both
large and small, including houses in Canada, the UK, India, Australia and Israel.
The DLPP University Consortium and Library Consortium have significant outreach programs.
Each year, the University Consortium, made up of colleges and universities in Ohio and beyond (we have university
connections in Michigan, Virginia, New York, Utah, Pennsylvania, California and the U.K. and are working to extend
the university connections through universities with peace institutes throughout the U.S. and beyond) presents
DLPP programming for their students and the public.