Submitted by Joseph Mork (St. John’s University, USA), Bekezela Mephulangogaja (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University), and Margaret Free (College of St. Benedict, USA).
In a media-saturated world funded by those who wish for their merchandise to appeal to customers, the practice of attaching the name of a famous individual to that product is both rampant and effective. Michael Jordan’s shoe brand, “Air Jordan”, is able to place significantly higher prices on their shoes because they are associated with the legendary player. Wheaties brand cereal is able to make a collector’s item out of their cardboard cereal boxes, because of the many famous faces they place on them. Trump Tower, in New York, is a building that many people have heard of because of the many exploits of Donald Trump, but many wouldn’t be able to tell you what happens inside it. The examples are nearly endless, but why is it that this marketing technique works so effectively, and in so many differing circumstances? It is because the name or face representing the product associates it with people who have done extraordinary things, and human beings naturally gravitate towards those who have done great things in their lifetime.
This holds true as well for those who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is especially evident in the country from which the winner originates. The average person feels a deep sense of national pride when a countryman wins this coveted award, and anything associated with that countryman (memorials, landmarks, and even universities) gains a higher level of respect and reverence when they are named after a Nobel Peace Prize winner. A fantastic example of this is visible in South Africa, where the University of Port Elizabeth, once greatly valued by the apartheid government of the twentieth century (and reserved for whites only), has now become renamed as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Mandela, along with his fellow South African winners Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chief Albert Luthuli, and President F. W. de Klerk, have each had an impact on the country of South Africa, and their names continue to be associated, mostly positively, with the national landmarks that bare their names. Bekezela, a computer science major from Zimbabwe, says that the name of this university, and its obvious association with a Nobel Peace Prize winner, gave him hope for a positive college experience. “I wasn’t too sure about coming here originally”, he says, “but then I thought to myself, ‘you know, if this school is good enough to be named after the great Nelson Mandela, it must be all right’.” He went on to say that after spending the last few years of his life here, he was extremely happy with the connections he has made and the positive influence the school has had on his life.
Bek’s experience is one of countless instances that gives insight into the lingering effects that the reception of an award as culturally valuable as this can have on others. Reverence, respect, solidarity, and pride are all feelings experienced when considering a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and are feelings that can, and often do, outlast the time of the recipient and continue to influence the way in which we live our lives today.