“A Student’s Nobel Peace Prize Experience” by Elsa Lilja Gunnarsdottir

The following post was written by Elsa Lilja Gunnarsdottir, a student at the American College of Norway in Moss, Norway and friend of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. This is her account of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which took place in Oslo in December.

Immediately as we approached Oslo City Hall, one could tell that this event was something out of the ordinary. After multiple security checks outside in the frosty Norwegian weather, we were finally allowed to enter. We hung our coats up and were given tickets to retrieve them later, like at a fancy event. Then, we were directed upstairs where we could see multiple security guards in the back, and rows of seats approaching the soapbox. The interview started promptly at 6 p.m. local time, and we could now see the Presidents of the European Union on a big screen. I felt slightly starstruck as I glanced across the room and could see the top of their heads–the heads of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Never in my life have I come so close to an individual or representative who has been awarded with one of the greatest recognitions in the world.

We were instructed to put headphones on since the broadcast was not going to be on any speakers in the room, and because of a 2 second time delay from Atlanta. It felt like we were on one of those double-decker sightseeing buses, being guided along while scouting for the next sight. Then, the big screens lit up and the introduction started. The delay caused us to be a little bit ahead of the clips, and we had to alternate between watching the screen and stretching our necks in the attempt to get a look at the interviewer, Jonathan Mann, and the EU Presidents Jose Manuel Barroso, Herman Von Rompuy and Martin Schultz. 

Many were surprised when the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year, especially considering the Euro crisis that has caused a lot of anger and frustration in countries that were affected. Jonathan Mann addressed these very important questions and he didn’t spare anything by being polite. He was honest and critical in his discussion with the EU presidents. But it seemed necessary–these were questions that many have been wondering about and that needed to be addressed. Questions like: “Why did things go wrong in the EU countries?” and “What will the EU do to prevent history from repeating itself in the future?”

Between the live discussions, clips were shown on the big screen depicting the European Union through the years; how it all started, how it up until now has made war unthinkable between former rival nations, and the economic recession in countries that have adopted the Euro. During the program, the problems of the European Union were discussed, but we were also reminded of what great things have come from what started as a union for trade of coal and steel with the goal of creating a common market. Not only were the issues with the EU addressed, but the EU was also celebrated for having achieved their aim of “making war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.” 

As the EU Presidents were confronted with the issues of the Euro, they defended the currency claiming that some nations have taken advantage of the benefits and there is nothing wrong with the Euro itself. However, they admitted that some stricter regulations will be necessary when it comes to loans and other matters that have not been properly rendered in the past, which without a doubt, have contributed to economic problems for multiple countries, and finally climaxed with a transnational recession, namely the “Euro Crisis”.

What surprised me about this interview was that these seemingly serious men were actually pretty hilarious. I did not expect to be humored during this broadcast, but they certainly took me by surprise and had the whole audience laughing at regular intervals. They replied to many of Mann’s critiques with a light, optimistic and slightly self-ironic tone. It had an effect on me, as I am sure it did on the rest of the audience as well, and gave some reassurance that maybe there’s hope for restoration yet and that this isn’t the end of the EU or the Euro. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has awarded the EU for, inter alia of restoring and preserving peace between countries. This prize served as a reminder of what the European Union truly stands for; unity and collaboration to sustain peace between European countries.

Being able to see this all live, being just a few feet/metres away from the Presidents of the EU, was a truly amazing experience. I would encourage anyone who is given the opportunity, any year, to go see the winner or winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in real life as they are interviewed, and get an impression of what they are really like, up-close and personal. In this CNN interview, they got to be themselves; live, unedited and without a memorized script. Congratulations to the European Union, and as well all it’s inhabitants, because as EU President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the Nobel Peace Prize concert, “We are all winners.”

[Note: Tickets are now on sale for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum – March 8-10 in Minneapolis.]

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