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The World War I Combatants’ Christmas Truce

British and German soldiers meeting in No Man’s Land

during the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Picture courtesy the National Army Museum.

Source: 20th Century History

By Geraldine Perreault, Professor, University of Northern Iowa

On Christmas Eve 1914, a unique event happened when German soldiers began decorating their trenches, and initiated a truce. They put up Christmas trees and began singing. In response, the British ”retaliated:”

“They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang ‘The first Noël’, and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, ‘O Tannenbaum’. And so it went on … And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”      

Separated by an area called “No Man’s Land,” the enemy soldiers used this area as a meeting ground where they sang Christmas carols together, exchanged souvenirs, played games, shared food and drink, and buried their dead. Participants in the truces were awed by the experience. As recounted by Oswald Tilley, This experience has been the most practical demonstration I have seen of ‘Peace on earth and goodwill towards men.’” The 1914 Christmas truce provided a moment of shining humanity and a testament to the human spirit.

How did this come about? A number of factors can be identified. The trench situation was miserable, flooding with water, freezing and muddy, and filled with decaying bodies. The men had sympathy for others whose situation was just as bad as theirs. Remarkably, this sympathy reflected a degree of empathy, even after their own friends had been killed: “We hated their guts when they killed any of our friends; then we really did dislike them intensely … And we thought, well, poor so and sos, they’re in the same kind of muck as we are.”

Other factors included their physical proximity, sometimes only 30 yards away, as well as a shared religion and shared traditions. For some, their understanding of Christmas made killing seem incompatible with the holiday. One Tommy (British soldier) wrote in his diary that “It doesn’t seem right to be killing each other at Christmas time.”

The story of the Christmas truce is a reminder of a civic spirit that allowed soldiers to walk across battle lines and celebrate a shared holiday.

An Empowering Heritage – Democracy Colleges and Freedom Struggles

Democracy Webcast ImageWednesday, February 24

3:00 PM–4:00 PM eastern
2:00 PM–3:00 PM central
1:00 AM–2:00 PM mountain
12:00 PM–1:00 PM pacific

Registration details will be posted to this website on Tuesday. Please save the date of this exciting webinar.

Single Site Connection: $169 USD
Single Site Connection AND archived CD from the program: $253.50 USD
Archived CD (or on-demand): $169 USD

The webinar series, Agents and Architects of Democracy aims to spark discussion and action on the future of higher education and its roles as architects and agents of thriving democratic societies. Join us as we explore the history and future of civic agency, and the theory and practice of empowerment, as an organizing theme for higher education.

Acknowledging higher education’s complex past, this second webcast in the series, “An Empowering Heritage,” looks at forgotten histories useful for today’s change efforts: the ways in which colleges and universities have sometimes functioned as “free spaces” where people develop civic power and confidence. The webcast will explore the roles of higher education in the freedom movement, and look at the history of land grant “democracy colleges.”

Could a renewed focus on agency deepen civic engagement in higher education to include not only activities — programs, centers, and courses – but also a democracy identity, institutions deeply grounded in their communities and regions and “filled with the democratic spirit,” as former Harvard president Charles Elliott once described his university? Will such an emphasis generate new forms of public scholarship, new approaches to engaged teaching, and partnerships which help communities to gain control over their future in a global environment? What are policy and social change strategies to foster empowering cultures and practices in higher education?

This fast-paced one-hour program will offer an opportunity for questions and answers during the program. Do you have a question now for presenters that you recommend they address during the program? Email your question to

Handouts will include the presenters’ PowerPoint images and other supportive articles for your reference.

Participants will be able to:

  • Develop ideas for how to ground current civic change efforts in their institutions’ traditions and history, rather than present them as a revolutionary new departure
  • Learn lessons and strategies from the past for creating and sustaining free spaces – empowering cultures – to counter today’s negative trends
  • Understand current democracy building efforts in a larger and inspiring context that generates hope and a sense of possibility
  • Gain an introduction to a more complex and nuanced “third angle of vision” about higher education, neither simple celebration nor simple critique

Who Should Attend This Webcast?

  • Those involved in the community engagement strand of higher education (service learning leaders, participatory action research groups, etc).
  • The engaged teaching/student as collaborator networks, and groups like AAC&U which have made this a major emphasis
  • Those interested in questions of public scholarship — Imagining America institutions, leaders in disciplines (sociology, history, geography MLA, political science, Social Science Research Council) who have been pushing for “public sociology,” “public history, etc.
  • Those concerned about the trends toward higher education becoming a private good, not a public good.


Harry BoyteHarry C. Boyte is founder and co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship now at Augsburg College, and a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. For more than twenty years, Boyte has helped to organize and direct action research partnerships and projects aimed at developing practice-based theory for what works to engage citizens in public life. Boyte is also the founder of Public Achievement, a civic and political education initiative that aims at developing the civic agency of young people now in hundreds of communities in 23 countries. Boyte has authored eight books on democracy, citizenship, and community organizing.  In the 1960s, Boyte was a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization directed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Harry Boyte is married to Marie Louise Ström, a democracy educator with Idasa, the African democracy organization.


Scott PetersScott Peters Scott Peters joined the Department of Education at Cornell University in August of 1999. He earned his Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration (1998) from the University of Minnesota. Before his graduate study, Peters` served for ten years (1984-1993) as Program Director of the University YMCA at the University of Illinois, where he worked with students, faculty, staff, and community members on a variety of civic education and community development initiatives.  Dr. Peters` research program is centered on a critical examination of the social, political, and cultural identities, roles, purposes, and work of academic institutions and professionals. A key theoretical and practical problem his research seeks to address is that of the dilemma of the relation of expertise and democracy in the academic profession.

A second presenter is being secured. As soon as we have confirmation we will post their biographical information.

Western Kentucky University Community Engagement House

By: Leah Ashwill, Community Engagement Coordinator, Western Kentucky University

Thang Le, Phuong Vu, and Greg Capillo live in a house on East Eleventh Street.

In this house, once riddled by criminal activity, the three students seek to turn the renovations of a house into a central location for students to communicate with neighbors, develop projects, and in turn, use their interests and knowledge to make a difference in the area.

Thang Le, Phuong Vu, and Greg Capillo serve as the first students to take part in the Community Engagement House, which will provide four graduate students each year with the opportunity to complete projects in a local neighborhood bordering Western Kentucky University’s campus.

“This work brings me a great opportunity to live in an America practical life, as well as bring my academic knowledge out to apply into real life. Also, I realize that I’m gradually becoming a part of this community,” Thang Le said.

To read more about the Community Engagement House, you can find the complete article in the December newsletter for the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships at The article also provides a link to the students blog, as well as information on a recent award recognition of the students’ work.

Portland State University Seeks Director of Center for Public Service

Position Summary

The Division of Public Administration in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University seeks a highly qualified candidate to fill the position of Director of the Center for Public Service.  The Center extends the research, educational and service mission of the Hatfield School by providing continuing professional education and training programs, applied research, and technical assistance to public and nonprofit organizations both domestically and internationally.  The Director will be appointed to a full-time tenure track position in the Division of Public Administration and report for Center matters to the Director of the Hatfield School.  The Director will be expected to teach three courses annually in the Division of Public Administration and continue the current practice of generating sufficient revenue from ongoing Center-related activities to cover approximately 50% of his/her personnel costs.  Candidates with varied backgrounds are encouraged to apply including senior academics with a history of applied work or service in similar administrative positions, more junior faculty with the potential to lead such a center now or in the near future, or senior public officials outside of the academy with outstanding professional records of community and public service.


The successful candidate will be expected to provide leadership for the Center and participate in the activities of the Division of Public Administration as a faculty colleague.  Candidates are expected to have the following qualifications:

  • Demonstrated leadership capacity to manage a complex array of professional development, applied research and teaching activities in an academic setting.
  • Demonstrated entrepreneurial skills.
  • Expertise in one or more of the core areas in public administration with preference in the following areas:  leadership, governance, ethics, organizational development, public and nonprofit management, budgeting, finance, research methods, political theory, state and local government, sustainable development.
  • Earned doctorate in a relevant discipline, relevant terminal degree or equivalent senior leadership in public service and/or governance.
  • Expertise to teach in the core academic offerings of the Division of Public Administration.
  • Demonstrated competence in teaching graduate students or equivalent engagement in significant public service activities.
  • Track record of applied scholarship and/or self-funded activity and/or senior policy experience.
  • Demonstrated history of community involvement, collaboration and public service.


Faculty rank and salary are commensurate with experience.  The benefits package includes fully paid health care, a retirement package, and reduced tuition rates for employee, spouse or dependent at any of the Oregon University System institutions.


The Mark O. Hatfield School of Government is highly regarded for its teaching, research and service programs. The overall goal of the newly formed Center for Public Service – consistent with Senator Hatfield’s legacy and core values – is to better align and leverage the intellectual resources of the Hatfield School (including faculty and other entities) with emergent public sector challenges, domestically and internationally, while providing more focused support for the School’s academic programs.  There are currently three active entities within the Center:  the Executive Leadership Institute, the Institute for Nonprofit Management, and the African Migration and Development Program.  Through these entities the Hatfield School of Government has a thirty-year history of public service, and has undertaken more than 100 professional development programs involving more than 150 agencies and organizations, 30 jurisdictions and 11 countries.  Current programs related to the Center generate in the order of 1.7 million dollars in annual revenue.

The Division of Public Administration, Hatfield School, College of Urban and Public Affairs and the University are committed to public service as a core component of institutional mission, and to expanding scholarship, teaching and community engagement that further the service mission. Further information regarding the Hatfield School of Government is available

To Apply

Applicants should submit a letter of application including a brief background statement addressing their capacity and experience to lead and manage the activities of the Center, as well as their teaching and research interests.  Applicants should include a curriculum vitae, and names and contact information for four references.  Applications should be sent to:

Chair, Center for Public Service Director Search

Mark O. Hatfield School of Government

Portland State University

P.O. Box 751

Portland, OR 97207

or send the application as an attachment via email to

This position is open until filled with review of applications beginning January 15, 2010. Review of applications will continue until finalists are identified. Inquiries should be directed to Dr. Craig W. Shinn, Search Committee Chair, phone: (503) 725-3920; e-mail:

For a detailed job description, please see the PSU website at:

Portland State University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Institution and welcomes applications from diverse candidates and candidates who support diversity.

Revised November 4, 2009

Revitalizing Student Government at UMBC

[Re-posted with permission from the Center for Democracy and Citizenship website. ]

As a United Nations student delegate in high school, Yasmin Karimian wanted to inspire others to take action on the many problems she saw in the world. But it was a daunting task, and one she didn’t feel prepared for.

When she started college at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2007, Karimian joined the Student Government Association (SGA). It was an exciting time. SGA was launching an annual contest called Prove It!, which awards $50,000 “to a novel and innovative project, service, or event on the UMBC campus that makes everyone proud to be a member of the community.”

By the next year, however, SGA was falling apart, Karimian says. “People had no connections. No one wanted to do anything.”

That fall, Karimian read The Citizen Solution in a civic engagement course. Then she joined her faculty advisor and another SGA member at a conference in Minneapolis launching the Civic Agency Initiative. The Civic Agency Initiative, organized by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, brings together a national cohort of more than a dozen schools working together as they explore how to better integrate democratic practice while deepening campus-community connections.

Karimian says she left the conference energized by faculty and students from across the country who wanted to do something on their campuses, and by the organizing strategies she learned, including something called “one-to-ones.”

A “one-to-one” meeting is a tool for initiating or building relationships and understanding someone’s self-interest. Although Karimian says she left the conference “not really believing in one-to-ones,” she thought it was worth giving them a try to understand why SGA members weren’t showing up for meetings.

Over spring semester, Karimian and four other SGA leaders did more than 50 one-to-ones with other members. Then they came back to the group and talked about the experience. Some members didn’t get the organizing strategy behind the meetings, she says, but at least it helped reconnect them to the association.

At the end of the year, Karimian ran for SGA president and won. She wants all SGA members to understand and use one-to-ones, and worked with other students to create a space in the SGA office for holding these meetings. It’s more than symbolic, Karimian says, “It’s used a lot.”

Over the past several months, there has been a cultural shift, too. In the past, SGA saw itself as fighting against the university on behalf of students, says Karimian. Now the organization is working with faculty on issues such as course drop dates, and telling administrators “this is how you can work with us” rather than asking permission. “It brings a lot of legitimacy to SGA,” concludes Karimian.

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