Beaver Dam native releases new book

September 21, 2016 GMT

What does peace mean to you?

That’s one of the questions Beaver Dam native John Noltner asked people across the country for his second book, “A Peace of My Mind: American Stories,” as he explored the meaning of peace, one story at a time.

Noltner, an award-winning photographer now living in Minnesota, graduated from Beaver Dam High School in 1985. After graduating from BDHS, Noltner earned a bachelor of arts degree in communication and journalism. Noltner tells stories with words and images for national magazines, Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations.

His first book —“A Peace of My Mind”— published in 2011, included a foreword by South African peace activist Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Noltner gathered most of the stories for that book in Minnesota, and stories and portraits from it were reproduced in two travelling exhibits.

Noltner said his first book included 52 people he spoke to, “mostly in my own backyard.”

His new book is basically the same premise, but with broader strokes on a bigger scale.

“I drove more than 40,000 miles over three years,” Noltner said.

Noltner had the new book released today, as it is also the International Day of Peace. The book’s foreword is written by Terri Lee Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum. The A Peace of My Mind project has been presented at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, the Gandhi—King Conference, and the Sojourners Summit for Change, as well as at colleges and community centers across the country.

One person who really resonated with Noltner was Joanne Bland of Selma, Alabama, who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when she was 11. Noltner said he was supposed to talk to someone else, but that interview fell apart. So he sent out a message through Facebook asking if there was anyone else in Selma he should talk to for the book.

“Two different people mentioned Bland,” Noltner said.

He tracked Bland down, and she was willing to speak to him. Noltner said the interview came shortly after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, and called it a very raw conversation about race and the recognition that we haven’t achieved equality yet.

In Wisconsin, Noltner spoke to Phillip Schladweiler in Eau Claire, an Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq and was wounded in an IED attack and lost the vision in his right eye.

Noltner said he grew up with an interest in the well-being of others, thanks to his mother who worked as an educator, and his father, who was a social worker. He hopes his work can help create “a better community, a better country and a better world.”

Noltner next hopes to expand to an international version of the project.

To learn more visit www.apomm.net.