It is Veteran’s Day (Remembrance Day in Canada) today and I think about my nephew fighting in Afghanistan for the British Army (Canadians can do that) and pray for his safe return. I also think about what we all are fighting for. And I’m thinking about the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu Xiaobo won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his “long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. By being a human rights activist Liu Xiaobo called for democratic reforms and the end of one-party rule in China. He is currently incarcerated as a political prisoner in China after being sentenced to eleven years in jail. This reminded me of Nelson Mandala winning the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize after he served 27 years in jail for being an anti-apartheid activist.
So why is there such a distinguished international award for peace?
Last year, President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in strengthening international diplomacy and the cooperation between people (FYI, he donated his 1.5 million US prize money to various charities). Only three other Presidents have won this prestigious award; Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, Woodrow Wilson in 1919, and Jimmy Carter, Jr in 2002. Former President Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement with Habitat for Humanity when he was no longer President. Many believe that Winston Churchill was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was actually awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature, although he was nominated for both the Literature Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize. Other notable Americans are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former Vice-President Al Gore.
Amazingly Mahatma Gandhi, who was one of the strongest symbols of non-violence of our time, never received a Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, shortly before he was assassinated in January 1948. That year the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award on the grounds that “there was no suitable living candidate”.
Both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were nominated but neither one won. In fact, Hitler’s nomination was withdrawn.
Few people realize that ordinary citizens can be considered for the world’s most prestigious prize. So, how do you go about getting nominated, because you can’t nominate yourself?
First, think big and do big! Identify a need and think outside of the box for a solution. Wangari Muta Maathai an activist who was born in Nyeri, Kenyan (Africa) won the 2004 award for her effort in saving Africa’s rainforest and her contribution to sustainable development. She founded the Green Belt Movement, which has now planted over 30 million trees across Kenya to help prevent soil erosion.
Secondly, become a part of something bigger then yourself! Be involved in a good cause in your neighborhood, your church or your community. Starting locally can have a great impact globally. As a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr. became a civil rights activist to end racial segregation and discrimination through nonviolent means. He started on the pulpit of his church and became the iconic figure for the civil rights movement in the United States.
Granted the chances are pretty slim that any of us will win a Nobel Peace Prize one day or for that matter, even ever come close to be nominated. That should not stop any of us having the will to want change. So this Veteran’s/Remembrance day I will stop and observe the two minutes of silence to honor all those men and women that allow us the freedom to think outside of the box and not have to go to prison for it.