This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2012 Peace Scholars as they complete their summer program in Oslo, Norway. This post was written by Jordan Montgomery from Saint Olaf College.
On a sunny day in Lillehammer, Eidsvåg of the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue introduced the 2013 Peace Scholars and our sister group from the Balkans to the man featured on the right. Eidsvåg, who teaches at the Nansen Center and hosts his own program on Norwegian radio, grinned from ear to ear: “Most Norwegians just assume everyone knows Fridtjof Nansen. It’s a bit of a shock to our world-view when people don’t!”
But why shouldn’t we know him? Besides deserving a place in the Facial Hair Hall of Fame, he skied across Greenland, went farther north than any man before him, helped found the field of neuroscience, championed the dissolution of Norway’s union with Sweden, chose the first Norwegian king, and essentially invented the term refugee which allowed a half million people to find a safe place to rebuild their lives following World War One. Most relevant to us, Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize for his aide of the stateless and his humanitarian fervor.
Let’s just say we all became big fans of Nansen after Eidsvåg’s introduction, which finished with the resonating quote from the man himself, “When it comes to human suffering, I know no borders.”
Indeed, I think Nansen would be proud of the modern Norway we are studying in the Peace Prize Forum Seminar. Norway consistently takes a leading role in issues of refugees and asylum seekers, even opening the welfare state to welcome those refugees who are forced north. But with the anniversary of last year’s vicious attack in Oslo and Utøya upon us, we recognize that the world still needs Fridtjof Nansen. It still needs human dynamos. It still needs charismatic crusaders on behalf of the weak who can humanize the “other”. It still needs great mustaches. So I and all the scholars give thanks for this summer to develop our “inner Nansen”, and pray we can have even a fraction of his truly human glory.