David Williams arrived on the south lawn of Buchanan Hall Wednesday afternoon to ceremoniously light UCSB’s Eternal Flame — meant to be a symbol of peace between nations — but found the flame could not be lit.
Williams, the initiator for the Rainbow Uprising of Consciousness Campaign, said he had asked Chancellor Henry T. Yang several weeks ago if he would fix the flame to remain lit through rain or wind, but arrived to find the flame already burning.
“We came a little disappointed that we didn’t get to do the ceremony as we’d asked, but we were happy that it was lit,” Williams said. “I was confident it would stay lit.”
However, as Williams honored the memorial on Wednesday, the flame continued to go out.
Williams hopes students encourage the university to make “a mental shift” to prioritize the Eternal Flame.
“Here’s the University of California, whose scientists have made all our nuclear weapons, and now the chancellor is even an electrical engineer, and I’m sure they can figure out how to keep a flame burning without the wind or the rain blowing it out,” Williams said. “But it’s just not important enough, and it won’t be important enough, I believe, until the students make it important enough.”
Andrea Estrada, a spokesperson for UCSB, explained that in order for the flame to burn regularly, a new underground gas line and starter would need to be installed.
“A number of fixes have been attempted in the past, but they haven’t addressed the main problems,” Estrada said, adding that it was important that the university find a “more permanent fix” before taking additional action.
“It is being discussed and certainly we don’t want to have an eternal flame that’s not functioning,” Estrada said.
Williams said although fixing the flame may be expensive, it is significant to community members and leaders who have worked to preserve the historic flame.
If the flame is not fixed, “it’s going to be disappointing for a lot of people,” Williams said.
If the flame is eventually lit, it will be carried in the Annual Global Peace Walk from Taos, N.M. to Santa Fe. It will then be carried in the Rainbow Uprising of Consciousness Peace March in summer where it will travel from New York City to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to The White House.
Williams, who called himself a “peace movement activist and a spiritual practitioner” began the Rainbow Uprising of Consciousness Campaign in 1990 and has been passionate about keeping the Eternal Flame lit since the 1980s.
The Eternal Flame monument was given as a gift to the university from the UCSB class of 1968.
Williams stressed the importance of UCSB’s Eternal Flame and its extensive history, including its being lit in 1990 with the Hiroshima Peace Flame, a peace symbol after the end of World War II.
“[That flame] was lit in the [1990s] as a prayer for peace that Hiroshima should never happen again anywhere in the world,” Williams said.
“And then, they’ve kept that burning as an eternal flame ever since in Hiroshima,” he continued. “As far as I know, [UCSB] is the only place in the United States where a Hiroshima peace flame was installed on an outdoor public monument. That’s why it’s so important: it’s a symbol.”