Remarks by Tom Heavey, May 30, 2009, Pacific Lutheran University
2009 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate – Rev. David Alger
Thank you for all being here tonight. There are a number of people and organizations I want to thank for helping to make this evening and this prize possible.
In no particular order I acknowledge the financial and in-kind support of the following: The News Tribune; The Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University; Norden Lodge #2, Sons of Norway; Embla Lodge #2, Daughters of Norway; Nordlandslaget Nordlyset; Bill Lincoln; the Russell Family Foundation; Michael Miller, Dawn Lucien; and all members of the GTPP Committee - Tonia Simpson and Janet Ruud (who represent the Daughters of Norway), Lisa Ottoson and Susan Young (who represent PLU), and Andreas Udbye (who represents the Sons of Norway with me).
SAS has been a supporter of ours in the past, but as many of you know, they are no longer flying a Seattle – Norway route. We are thankful to them. We also are looking for a new airline partner, if any of you have contacts . . . .
I also acknowledge good friends and supporters in Oslo for making sure that our laureate has a terrific experience there: Turid Johannessen of the Norse Federation; Ambassador John Bjørnebye of The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights; and Anne Cecilie Kjelling of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
This is my second favorite Peace Prize night of the year, the first being the night in which we all come to consensus on who our laureate will be. Each year we face a difficult decision sorting through the wonderful nominees who are suggested to our committee. And that is how we operate, on consensus.
I mentioned the names of the other committee members a few moments ago. Toni Simpson has been on the committee for two years and is serving as our chair. Susan Young, the Director of the Scandinavian Culture Center is also on the committee. On the committee with me from the very beginning are Lisa Ottoson, Janet Ruud and Andreas Udbye. I have the honor of being called the founding chair, because I was the first person to verbalize the idea of the prize. These three deserve most of the credit for making this the viable organization that it is and the dynamic organization that it will become. They have put flesh on the bones of a concept and have taken ownership of the idea that Norwegian Americans have something particular to say when it comes to peace in our community.
These ideas first surfaced for me in 2003. In January of that year I was elected President of Norden 2 lodge of the Sons of Norway. The President of the Tacoma Sons of Norway wears a symbol of office - a medallion with the image of King Olav V. Shortly after my election and installation my Seattle-based Coast Guard Reserve unit informed me that I was being transferred to a Tacoma-based reserve unit. Good news, right? Well, the other news with that was the Tacoma Coast Guard unit was packing its boats and equipment and was headed to guard the coast of the Persian Gulf. With less than two weeks notice I found myself standing on another continent, for undetermined length of time, to carry out a mission that had not been fully shared with us, and ready to do violence to someone else and/or to have violence done to us. I knew there had to be another way.
After the first four weeks of high excitement during the invasion of Iraq, things settled down to the tedium and the calm that comes to a person who is standing for an extended period of time on the ledge of mile deep chasm. While the danger is there, you have the free time to let your mind wander.
As a part of my daily ensemble I wore a camouflage utility uniform, Kevlar flak vest around my chest, Kevlar helmet on my head, 9 millimeter service pistol under my arm, and around my neck - my dog tags. Along with my dog tags, I wore half of a pendant, of which my wife wore the other half - and I also wore the King Olav medallion of the Sons of Norway.
I had a lot of time to reflect on each of those items, and my reflections on the King Olav medal led me to ask the question, what is unique about the Norwegian Experience that we Norwegian-Americans are among the last of the older immigrant groups to keep the ties alive? What is unique about Norway, that it occupies a special place among the modern Nations of this world?
The short answer to those questions is PEACE.
Norway is the superpower of Peace in the modern world. Wherever peace is breaking out you will find Norwegians. Across the globe the Norwegian government and Norwegian citizens are undertaking a variety of roles at the center of peace efforts, doing the yeoman’s work.
In 2004, during the planning for the events leading up to our local celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of Norway’s entering its place as a free nation in the modern world, I vocalized these ideas which had been floating around my head; and that perhaps we ought to do something locally, to imitate what is being done globally.
Now five years later, we are here to honor our fifth laureate, Rev. David Alger, following in the distinguished footsteps of those who have come before him
2005: Mr. George F. Russell, Jr.
2006: CRI (Conflict Resolution, Research and Resource Institute - Bill Lincoln and Polly Davis)
2007: Rev. Ron Pierre Vignec (The Salishan Mission)
2008: Mr. David Corner (The Gathering Project)
But before we get to this year’s Laureate it is my honor to introduce one of the early supporters of the idea of a Peace Prize, and one who was willing to commit to being a founding sponsor of the committee, the President of Pacific Lutheran University, Dr. Loren Anderson.
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