As Obama wins Nobel Prize, our Ted Turner promotes peace

By Maria Saporta

I woke up this morning to the news that President Barrack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, it was a bit surprising, and perhaps somewhat premature. But it is an acknowledgement that Obama has changed the way the world views the United States under his leadership. His election reignited hope that we could resolve our global conflicts through means other than war. And that is no small thing.

Even Obama seemed to be a little embarassed to have received the prize.

“To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace,” Obama wrote in an email send to his broad database of contacts. “But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.”

Serendipitously, I went to Ted’s Montana Grill for lunch downtown to meet up with a couple of friends.

As we were waiting to sit down, Turner came in the restaurant with his friend, Elizabeth for a lunch meeting. We chatted for a few minutes, and I wondered silently how Turner must feel about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

After all, there’s probably no one more worthy of winning to Nobel Peace Prize than Ted Turner.

It was Turner who started CNN, the television network that has opened up communications between nations — both by helping Americans know what’s going on around the world and, and just as importantly, giving the rest of world a window of understanding of news and opinions in the United States.

That was only the beginning.

As Turner became one of the wealthiest men in the world, he has committed himself to global peace.

Through the United Nations Foundation, which he established with a $1 billion gift, Turner has been tackling the issues of poverty, overpopulation and international discord. Turner’s gift also helped the United States re-engage in the United Nations and its grand global mission.

Turner also established the Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2000 aimed at reducing the weapons of mass destruction in the world. He hired former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn to serve as his co-chairman and CEO. Nunn has dedicated much of his efforts to reducing the number of nuclear arsenals around the world.

How much more dedicated to peace can one man be?

Nunn issued the following statement after Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

“I congratulate President Obama and his entire team on winning the Nobel Peace Prize,” the statement read. “He has changed the tone of U.S. foreign policy by making it clear to the world that we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe, and he has reshaped the global focus and debate. This prestigious recognition and honor will enlarge the President’s platform to lead the world toward actions that ultimately make his vision possible, including his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Turner’s international contributions don’t stop there.

Through the Turner Foundation and Turner’s other philanthropic efforts, Turner and his family have been devoted to environmental causes including the conservation of land, the reduction of global warming, the saving of endangered spiecies and the development of alternative energy sources.

Again, Turner has been an advocate for creating a more sustainable world by and encouraging the United States to become a global partner to minimize climate change.

Reader Kyle Kessler brought up several other contributions of Turner.

In 1982, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro invited Turner to meet with him in Cuba. They stayed up all night drinking and smoking cigars, starting an unusual friendship.

Similarly, Turner met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at a time when the Cold War was frigid. As an effort to thaw relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, Turner founded the Goodwill Games in 1986. The goal for the games was to create one-on-one friendships between the athletes from both countries.

So here is Ted Turner, one private citizen, albiet one with billions of dollars, who has had a tremendous impact on the world through a variety of avenues.

In my mind, Turner deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for all he already has accomplished through CNN, the UN Foundation, NTI, the Goodwill Games and the Turner Foundation; and he deserves the prize for all he continues to do.

This was Obama’s year.

Maybe next year, it will be Ted Turner’s year to be recognized for all he has done to promote peace and understanding in the world.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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