"We yearn for the chance to prove to ourselves-and others-that we are better than we think we are." -Maureen K. Reed
by Maureen K. Reed
They couldn't be more different from one another, these three women in the Oslo City Hall receiving their Nobel Peace Prizes. The first, a woman in her early 70s, an economist, small of stature, presidential and precise in her speech, recounting the facts of her country Liberia and the challenges it must still surmount in the aftermath of a savage civil war. The second, a robust woman in midlife, passionate in her intonation, telling the stories of the women and children who were-and still are-brutally dehumanized by rape and suppression. And the third, the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, a fiery wisp of a woman clad in Muslim dress with a beautifully open and hopeful face, describing the
human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime of dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh and her hope that the Arab Spring will touch the soil of Yemen.
They shared this moment. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman shared this prize-the recognition of the nonviolent struggle they had each waged for the safety and rights of women. But they had each chosen a different path, or perhaps, more correct, they simply walked the only path their feet had found.
To be there, in the presence of these women, was to glimpse courage beyond measure and conviction beyond description. To be there, in the presence of these women, was to be inspired to act and be required to ask yet again, "How?" It is hard, very hard, to know how one can best reduce conflict, foster peace or enhance stability. The world stage is not open to most of us. The profoundly critical moment is usually not ours to grasp. Yet we yearn for the chance to prove to ourselves-and others-that we are better than we think we are.
It is this longing of the human spirit to be better, to change the world for the better, to change ourselves for the better that is the power of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. The Forum exists to inspire peacemaking by celebrating the work of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Now permanently at home in the Twin Cities on the Augsburg and University of Minnesota campuses, the Forum has the profound privilege of annually bringing a Nobel Laureate to be among us, to provide the inspiration that so many of us seek. It also takes on the worthy task of bringing dozens of national and local luminaries, who have made a difference in their own small part of the planet, together with thousands of attendees who just want to do more and to do better. We here in the Upper Midwest are most fortunate-there is no other city, state or nation that has been granted the right to use this name "Nobel Peace Prize."
The 24th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum, with Laureate F.W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa, and Naomi Tutu, activist and humanitarian, is March 1-3 in Minneapolis. The Forum will ask, probe and answer many questions. More important, its attendees will leave deeply moved and perhaps deeply troubled by the questions that still remain imbedded in the heart. The attendees-myself included-will return to the world, to reflect and to act.