Maybe your dad fought in World War II. Mine did. And uncles too. And even a feisty, ahead-of-her-time aunt. They would have loved yesterday’s ceremony in Oslo City Hall.
It was a painstaking argument Thorbjorn Jagland laid out, a recitation of the carnage of the first World War, followed by the devastation of the second. Then the chair of the Nobel Committee moved through the peaceful reunification of Germany, the bloodless reforms of Poland, and more recently, the resolution of the Balkan wars. He capped the brief history lesson commenting on the rise of democracy in post-fascist, post-communist Europe.
As the Nobel Laureate representatives took the podium, even a few nay-sayers found it hard to doubt the impact of the European Union on the stabilization of an inherently unruly, fractious, dangerous Europe. And they found it easy to see its contribution to be on a par with that of Willy Brandt (1971), Lech Walesa (1983), and Mikhail Gorbachev (1990).
The European Union representatives themselves gave testimony to the difficulty of their work and the unfinished nature of it. Amidst the elation of the moment, however, it was hard to miss the undercurrent of concern. Descent into future armed conflict, while still “inconceivable,” is “not impossible.” After today’s luster is off the rose, these Europeans return to their troubled tasks still ahead. Dad, translating Morse code on a US Navy ship in the North Atlantic, would approve.
Maureen K. Reed, MD
Nobel Peace Prize Forum