Editorial, Issue 4: Controversial nominations deserve more attention

American pop culture makes much ado about nothing, giving awards to the rich and famous. Actors, singers and celebrities have their Tonys, their Grammys, their Oscars.

There’s another annual honor, a prize given to those who ignite global change through their efforts in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature – and the most difficult to define category, peace.

The Nobel Prize nominees won’t get the experience of walking down a red carpet. They pass by without receiving the same scrutiny we subject our celebrities to, and deserve a more thorough review.

Will an exile earn the Peace Prize, even as half his country reviles him as a traitor?

Edward Snowden holds a special place in current U.S. history for revealing a broad swath of information about the U.S. government’s electronic surveillance programs.

Popular opinion of Snowden quickly polarized. Supporters believe his whistleblowing will be a positive influence on developing future policy in the Internet age; opponents see only the negative effects his revelations brought on foreign and domestic policy.

Snowden may win the Prize for cutting away back the comforting insulation we took for granted and exposing the shocking abuse of power.

Can a child earn the Peace Prize for holding true to her beliefs, even while staring down death?

Malala Yousafzai wrote a blog for the BBC about trying to go to school as a young girl in a Taliban-controlled region of Pakistan.

Through blogging, Pakistani television interviews and growing international support, Yousafzai ignited a bright beacon of resistance against the oppressive attitudes towards women’s education – a beacon that, despite the Taliban’s attempt to extinguish it by an assassination attempt, remains burning bright to this day.

Yousafzai may win the Prize for lighting a fire under the world’s consciousness, drawing attention to the plight of women kept in the dark by lack of education.

Will a world leader accept the Peace Prize, even as his military forces occupy another country?

Vladimir Putin was nominated for the prize by a Russian advocacy group, despite Western fears that his ongoing military actions in the Crimean peninsula will bring on another Cold War.

The group believes Putin earned the prize for his efforts to cool down the Syrian crisis by convincing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to put his chemical weapons stockpiles on ice.

Putin may win the Prize by a degree of cold logic: the international community may view a head of state with frigid disdain, but it doesn’t mean he can’t thaw his heart once in a while.

These nominees’ names are just three among the record 278 the Norwegian Nobel Committee received for 2014. Other known nominees include Pope Francis, for his call for the Catholic Church to fight global poverty; Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist and activist fighting against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and the Nansen Dialogue Network, for its work rebuilding communities in the Balkan peninsula.

“The number of nominations increases almost every year, which shows a growing interest in the prize,” said Nobel Committee secretary Geir Lundestad.

A growing interest? Perhaps – in the international community. It’s time for the rest of us to turn our eyes away from the stars and spotlights, and instead reflect on the people who work to make the world a better place.