I always expected college to change my view of the world, but I had no inkling as to how fast this process would happen. Sure, moving to the Midwest was the first change and gaining knowledge of a different culture in Vienna was eye-opening, but the Nobel Peace Prize Forum this weekend was by far the most inspiring. For those of you outside the Midwest Norwegian-Lutheran school loop, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum is affiliated with the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and for the past 23 years, Augustana, Augsburg, St. Olaf, Concordia and Luther colleges have taken turns hosting the event. A different Nobel Laureate is invited to speak each year, and other notable people host workshops and informational sessions on worldly issues. This year’s speaker was Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts towards women’s rights, and quality of human life in general. At the opening ceremony, there was an interview set-up, with her interpreter by her side. Not only was her native tongue engaging, but her sense of humor and passion showed through the translation. She’s quite the fireball of a woman despite her petite stature.
The next day I participated in three workshops, each inspiring. One of the most engaging was titled, “Artistic Survival: Using Courageous Art to Humanize Suffering,” presented by Professor Ivan Fuller from Augustana College. He believed that, “Art is not life-enhancing, but life-sustaining.” He used the composer Dmitri Shostakovich as a moving example of courageous art. During the Siege of Leningrad during World War II, Shostakovich wrote his seventh symphony, using the conflict as inspiration. When it was ready to perform, audience members turned in their treasured bread coupons to attend the concert, proving how nourishing music is to any human being. I plan on watching the documentary of which he only showed a portion, called Shostakovich Against Stalin. One of the women interviewed in the film attended the concert with a background of exploding shells and bombs, and she said, “The symphony was our feast.”
The closing ceremony was not graced with President Obama’s presence (he went to Miami instead, a good choice on the weather front at least), but LCSO and all the campus choirs performed Hope for Resolution, one of my favorite pieces from Christmas at Luther. This was the cherry on top of the ceremony after Eboo Patel spoke in the most captivating speech I’ve ever heard about striving for peaceful existence. Using powerful historical examples, he made his point clear with a completely silent, entranced CFL audience. Through this one weekend, my mind has shifted greatly towards more global thinking, and it’s making me restless to go out and make a change with my education. It would be easy to get caught up in the cheesy adage, “Everyone can make a difference,” but this was much more tastefully and truthfully inspired in all the Forum’s participants.
Before this weekend, I’ve made more attempts at finding employment for next year. My interview to become an RA went well, though wearing perfume when recovering from a cold was not a good choice. Slightly watery-eyed and sneezy, I made it through the interview and will know a yay or nay before spring break. I also applied for a position in the Admissions Office where I would get to lead tours of campus and whatnot. Either of these positions would be more engaging than my current position that leaves me smelling like the dish du jour, so I hope one comes through.
Just a few closing tidbits: The first Paideia research paper due date is in sight, and my communications test went swimmingly, so all is well on the school front. I’m playing intramural 4-on-4 volleyball which keeps me active despite our losing record. Only 12 days until Spring Break, so my calendar tells me, and it’ll have been nearly three months since the last time I was home. I can’t believe how much my view of the world has changed since the last time I was in the Apple Capital of the World.