Today marks the 34th World Hello Day, established in 1973 by then-Dunster House student Michael J. McCormack ’74 in response to conflict between Israel and Egypt that fall.
McCormack said that he and his brother Brian, looking for a way to promote peace, asked themselves: “What could we try that hadn’t been tried before?”
The brothers contacted heads of state and media outlets across the globe to garner support for their holiday. In 1973, 15 countries celebrated the holiday. Today, people in 180 nations will observe World Hello Day, according to the McCormack brothers.
“Some people think of ‘hello’ as just a word of greeting, but it can be much more,” Colin Powell, then the highest-ranking American military officer, wrote in a 1992 letter to McCormack. “It serves as a door through which to gain access to greater understanding among peoples and nations as we continue the quest for world peace,” Powell added.
According to the McCormack brothers, 31 Nobel Peace Prize winners have recognized the holiday, including Mother Teresa and Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
“Every day the people in the whole world are wishing each other everything best in different languages,” Gorbachev wrote in a 1994 letter to McCormack. “This is a symbolic thing. It expresses the essence of human life,” the former Soviet leader added.
Observers of the holiday must simply say ‘hello’ to 10 people. The goal of the day is to encourage peace through communication.
McCormack, now a novelist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles, can greet people in 65 different languages, but knowledge of foreign languages is not necessary to the casual observer of the holiday.
“Right now, maybe more than ever, [World Hello Day] is applicable to what’s going on in the world,” said McCormack. “It’s so simple but it’s something that’s caught on.”
For some, though, saying hello isn’t a once-a-year occasion.
Lia Fajadardo works in Quincy House dining hall and greets hundreds of students daily.
“It makes me feel good, and I like to make [students] feel good, and I like to see them smile,” she said. “It’s my pleasure. Some of them say that ‘you make my day.’”