History of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

As remembered by forum co-founder David W. Preus, Presiding Bishop of the American Lutheran Church from 1973-87.

 In 1987 Mike Roan of Tandem Project called me with a request for a meeting.  At that time I was Presiding Bishop of the American Lutheran Church, a church body with 2,500,000 members, most of them in the Midwest.  I knew Mike from his work with the Minneapolis Model Cities program in the 1960s while I was on the Minneapolis Board of Education.  Mike told of a recent visit in Oslo, Norway, with his cousin, Jakob Sverdrup, Executive Secretary for the Nobel Peace Institute in Oslo.

Mike informed me that he and Sverdrup had discussed the possibility of a Nobel Peace Prize event in the U.S. that would have the cooperation of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. I was immediately interested for three main reasons.  One, all my adult life I sought to serve the One who is called The Prince of Peace and who charged his followers to be peacemakers.  Second, much of my work as church leader had been peacemaking. It was apparent that an American event sponsored by some institution(s) of the American Lutheran Church, with the cooperation of the famed Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Institute, presented exciting peacemaking possibilities.  Third, the American Lutheran Church was on record in support of peacemaking activity and a connection with the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Institute would strengthen that activity.

Just what kind of event and just how it could be sponsored were open questions. We quickly determined that a major event would require some large institutional sponsorship for the logistics for any major event would be large scale.  Mike and I first talked about a major annual event in Minneapolis.  We thought the large number of Norwegian founded congregations, colleges of the church, and other institutions in Minnesota and surrounding states, as well as a wider public constituency, would be interested in such an event.  From the beginning of our conversation the ALC colleges founded by the Norwegian immigrants to America were considered necessary participants in any plans that would be developed. Ultimately we concluded that the colleges themselves (Augsburg, Augustana, Concordia, Luther, St. Olaf) might jointly sponsor an annual forum moving from one college to another.

We decided that possibility should be explored further. I agreed to sound out the idea with President Sid Rand, soon to retire as president of St. Olaf College.  I also requested a $10,000 grant from The ALC Board of Trustees so there would be some initial funding available.  President Rand agreed to present the idea at the next meeting of the college presidents.  The presidents were interested and were willing to sponsor a one time five year cycle of forums with subsequent review after an event at each of the five colleges.

Concurrent with the above described activity we began forming a Peace Prize Executive Committee.  I asked former U. S Vice President Mondale to join Sid Rand, Mike, and me in forming a Nobel Peace Prize Forum committee.  The active participation of Fritz Mondale helped immensely to get the Peace Prize Forum off to a running start; Former Governor Al Quie was another very important addition to the committee.  Other outstanding persons have given important service through the subsequent years.  The committee, and especially Vice President Mondale, did a great job of recruiting headline speakers. For the first several years of Forum life Mike did the heavy lifting as executive committee secretary and I chaired the committee.

Now there have been 23 absolutely outstanding forums.  The colleges have been superb sponsors for the events.  Many thousands of college students, and a significant number from society at large have been engaged with Nobel Peace Prize laureates and many other peacemaking public figures from all over the world.  Peace continues to be an elusive goal.  The Nobel Peace Prize forums have made an important contribution to peacemaking efforts.  I am grateful for having been part of this endeavor.

David W. Preus
April 12, 2011