Festival History

As remembered by its founders.

The Peace Prize Festival began as a way to involve K-12 young people in the important work of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, an annual event that inspires peacemaking by celebrating the work of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates  History of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

At the 1993 Concordia Forum, the co-founder of the Forum, Michael Roan of the Tandem Project, was seeking a means of connecting younger people with this celebration when he saw Lynn Elling’s display about the World Citizen’s Peace Site program. A majority of World Citizen’s Peace Sites were schools, so Mr. Roan asked Mr. Elling, Founder of World Citizen, Inc., to have lunch in Minneapolis following that Forum. There he solicited Mr. Elling’s help in planning an annual event at Augsburg to engage these K-12 young people with the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in the Twin Cities, just before the Laureates traveled to whichever college was hosting the Forum that year.

The primary goal of the Peace Prize Festival was having students learn about and celebrate the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.  More specifically, its mission was threefold:

  • to teach young people about the Nobel Peace Prize and its influence on world peace;
  • to instill in young people the belief that peace is a concept to which everyone can and must contribute; and,
  • to teach that peace begins within and must be expressed in the family, in the school, in the community, in the country and in the whole world.

To execute this mission, Tandem Project board member, Jack Nist, came up with the “Adopt-a-Laureate” program in which each school chose a particular Peace Prize Laureate to “adopt.” Then the young people in that school learned everything they could about the life and accomplishments of their chosen Laureate or organization.  The students worked out a creative way to teach the other kids at the festival about “their” Laureate.  In the final analysis, the creative ways these young people chose to present what they had learned was the true secret of the success of these Festivals. Their enthusiasm – as young people teaching other young people – produced an exciting event that expressed itself in displays, games, and innovative presentations as well as original music, dance, and dramatic performances.

The first of these Festivals occurred in 1996.  Through the efforts of the Peace Prize Festival Committee, its long-time coordinator Debra Caron, Lynn Elling’s World Citizen’s Peace Site Schools, and Augsburg College – and with the consistent support of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and its Chairman Geir Lundestad – the Festival drew more than twenty schools and youth groups. Annually, several hundred young people attended, with their family members boosting the attendance to a thousand. A two-part video of the 15th Festival on YouTube gives a good sense of the event:

In 2012, the Nobel Peace Prize Festival becomes an integral part of the Forum as a core component of Education Day (Friday, March 2). This year’s Festival will draw on the energy of previous Festivals, yet feature a new, even more dynamic program. The morning will echo the successes of previous years – a testament to the creative ideas and many committed people who fostered the event through its first 16 years. The rest of Education Day will build on that foundation with workshops, keynote speakers, and a hip-hop performance that will enhance the program’s appeal to a wider age-range and audience.

This year’s dramatic expansion of the Festival within the Nobel Peace Prize Forum will strengthen both events and promises an exciting future!