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16th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum focused on 'roots of change'

By Amy Gage
February 22, 2004

When St. Olaf College hosted the 16th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Feb. 20 and 21, 2004, hundreds of people, both famous and ordinary, gathered to work together for worldwide peace.

Among the featured speakers at the two-day event, a collaboration among five colleges and the Norwegian Nobel Institute, were former U.S. President and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter, as well as Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general emerita of the World Health Organization and former prime minister of Norway, and Dr. Eboo Patel, executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago.

"President Carter's life exemplifies the theme of this year's conference, 'Striving for Peace: Roots of Change,'" said St. Olaf College President Christopher M. Thomforde. "He has shown that an individual can bring constructive change in the world through his work as a military officer, a public official and a private citizen."

Dr. Brundtland delivered the opening plenary address and Mr. Carter delivered the keynote address. Former Vice President Walter Mondale introduced him.

Dr. Patel will delivered the final "Call to Action." An organizer, teacher and artist, Patel runs an international interfaith organization that helps youth from different faith communities engage in social action projects.

Speakers also included three St. Olaf regents: Philip Brunelle, founder and artistic director of VocalEssence in the Twin Cities; Larry Rasmussen, the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; and Bob Hatch, board chairman of FINCA International, which seeks to raise loan capital for severely poor women in developing countries. The anti-poverty organization, whose full name is the Foundation for International Community Assistance, also presented a panel session.

The two-day forum featured a variety of workshops and discussion sessions for which students of the five sponsoring colleges in the Midwest -- Augsburg, Augustana, Concordia, Luther and St. Olaf colleges-- and the general public was also welcome. Held annually, the forum rotates among the five campuses of the sponsoring colleges, each of which has Norwegian roots and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

About the Nobel Peace Prize Forum
Founded in 1989, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum is the Norwegian Nobel Institute's only such program or academic affiliation outside Norway. Norwegian immigrants founded each of the five sponsoring colleges, and their sponsorship recognizes Norway's international peace efforts and offers opportunities for Nobel Peace Prize laureates, diplomats, scholars, students and the general public to engage in dialogue on the dynamics of peacemaking and the underlying causes of conflict and war.

Topics of past forums have included "Human Rights in the Global Village," "The United Nations in a New World," "From National to Common Security" and "The Morality and Machinery of Modern Conflict." Last year's theme, "Roots of Change," celebrated grassroots initiatives around the world and affirmed the power of everyday individuals to nourish the roots of peace.

Begun with annual support from Lutheran Brotherhood (now Thrivent Financial for Lutherans), the Nobel Peace Prize Forum's array of programs has involved more than 21,000 participants and reached a much broader audience through national and regional media coverage.

Each college puts its own stamp on the forum, which often finds expression in art and music. St. Olaf Professor Emeritus of Art Mac Gimse created a "Roots and Wings" sculpture for last year's forum that was presented to the plenary speakers. A poem that Gimse wrote for the occasion was read during his sculpture presentation to Mr. Carter. In addition, Hardanger fiddle player and St. Olaf Associate Professor of Music Andrea Een performed, as did the St. Olaf Gospel Choir, under the direction of composer and jazz pianist Keith McCutchen, and the world dance group Veselica.

Workshops, discussion sessions, seminars
Twelve peace-skills workshops were open only to students of the five sponsoring colleges, as well as to media representatives. The workshops were a new aspect of the annual forum, which last year also coincides with the Worldwide Service Fair and the Globalization and Social Responsibility conference, held annually at St. Olaf College.

"Among the many who are inspired by the annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum, students receive perhaps the greatest impact," says Susan Carlson, coordinator of the forum at St. Olaf. "Exposure to world leaders who work tirelessly for peace can be lifechanging as young people learn that peacemaking is both possible and honorable."

Students had the opportunity to choose from topics such as these:

? "Making Art, Making Peace," by visual artist Apo Torosyan;

? "Imagining a Culture of Peace," by Erik Cleven of the Centre for Conflict Management in Norway;

? "Making Peace With the Earth at the Local Level," by activists who work in Northfield for wind energy and sustainable agriculture; and

? "Peace Churches: Congregations Involved in Peace and Justice Work," with representatives from St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis and Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul.

Discussion sessions and seminars were open to anyone registered for the 16th annual forum. These included "Striving for Peace in the Global Workplace," "Rights of Indigenous Peoples," "Culturally Responsive Health Care," "Honoring Diversity in the Elementary Classroom," "Finding the Roots of Sexual Violence," "Peaceful Families, Peaceful Communities," "CEOs and Moral Intelligence: An Oxymoron?" and "America Through the Eyes of Islam."

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or