The creator of the Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel, was not a war profiteer except in the minds of those that don’t read history. The perception that he was lead to his creation of the Nobel prizes. He created the Peace Prize as an act of atonement for that which was yet to be done in his name. The Nobel Peace Prize was the most nebulous of the five prizes created and from his last will and testament was to be for those that “during the preceding year [...] shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
The world is filled with hate, fear, hopeless and helplessness. T here are those that would profit from this by making war, creating more hate, fear, hopelessness and helplessness and thereby making more profit. So we must not forget Theodore Roosevelt’s words as he accepted the 1906 Nobel Peace prize:
There is at least as much need to curb the cruel greed and arrogance of part of the world of capital, to curb the cruel greed and violence of part of the world of labor, as to check a cruel and unhealthy militarism in international relationships.
These were no idle words from a Liberal Republican that would become a Progressive. He would go on to say:
No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.
Elihu Root, Republican defender of the robber barons and Peace Prize winner of 1912, also found atonement in arbitrating peace after profiting from defending theft:
The humanitarian purpose of Alfred Nobel in establishing the peace prize which bears his name was doubtless not merely to reward those who should promote peace among nations, but to stimulate thought upon the means and methods best adapted, under the changing conditions of future years, to approach and ultimately attain the end he so much desired.
The first Democrat to be the benefactor of the Progressive Era, was the Conservative * Woodrow Wilson, the 1919 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He commented on the peculiar grouping of prizes thusly:
There is indeed a peculiar fitness in the grouping of these Nobel rewards. The cause of peace and the cause of truth are of one family. Even as those who love science and devote their lives to physics or chemistry, even as those who would create new and higher ideals for mankind in literature, even so with those who love peace, there is no limit set. Whatever has been accomplished in the past is petty compared to the glory and promise of the future.
What is most notable about these three highly successful men who fought long for the common man is that they were awarded the Peace Prize for a single meager attempt at sustained peace, although frequently they achieved larger victories otherwise, ultimately they failed to prevent the two world wars. The small accomplishment of the year prior to the prize is its rationale and only shows an expression of the winner’s intent to achieve peace. It was an intent that shaped each of their life’s work from that day forward.
It is with these thoughts that I measure the Peace Prize that was won by President Obama. Alfred Nobel established it to atone for his perceived wrongs that he had not committed, but the future surely would commit. Each winner through one or a few small deeds in the prior year backed by a lifetime of thought and speech changed the temper of their times, each turned to the plight of the common man and ultimately to peace to give back what was so bountiful in their life, each was involved in war as much as they were involved in peace, each was as much a thinker as a doer, each may share Nobel’s intent to atone for perceived wrongs beyond what can reasonably be expected. Such is the character of a Peace Prize winner; such is the character of each American that has won the prize. I am proud of our country as the beacon on the hill that all look up to and most proud when we earn it.
For a look from the other side you might want to click here.
* Note that in the election of 1912 of the three candidates running Theodore Roosevelt was considered a socially liberal Progressive and was mostly Republican in regard to being a hawk on the war, whereas Woodrow Wilson came from a Conservative Southern Democratic background and was a social conservative, who happened to have some progressive ideas. Of the two, todays liberals would consider Theodore Roosevelt more of a liberal and Woodrow Wilson more of a bigot.