By Maria Saporta
It’s time for Ted Turner to join the most prestigious club in the world — the one for Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
It’s hard to imagine any private citizen who has had a greater impact on our world and has done more to bring it closer together than Turner.
His impact has been on multiple levels. The world of communications. The United Nations. The environment. The world of sports. And reducing or eliminating the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
And Turner, who will turn 75 on Nov. 19, is still hard at work trying to make the world a more peaceful, more equitable and a healthier place for us all.
When it comes to Nobel Peace Prizes, Atlanta has had a rich history. It is the home (or the second home) of several notable previous winners.
And in a couple of years, Atlanta will be taking center stage in the Nobel Peace Prize world.
This week, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are gathering in Warsaw, Poland for their annual summit to talk about human rights and key global programs — attracting 6,000 participants from Poland and abroad. (The organizer of the summit is the former president of Poland — Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Walesa).
Two years from now, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates summit will be convening in Atlanta as a nod to the city’s role in civil and human rights.
Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
Three other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates also have close ties to Atlanta. Muhammad Yunus, who won the Prize in 2006, has made Atlanta his second home after Bangladesh, and he has been the biggest advocate for Atlanta hosting the summit. Yunus also has offered to organize the Atlanta summit, and his associate, Mohammad Bhuiyan, will be the CEO of the event.
The two other Nobel Laureates with Atlanta ties are the Dalai Lama, who won the Prize in 1999; and Desmund Tutu of South Africa who won in 1984 (both of them are visiting faculty members at Emory University).
Interestingly enough, Turner will serve as honorary chair of the 2015 Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Atlanta.
This column, however, is not at all directly tied to the summit or its organizers, and it is not part of an orchestrated effort to get Turner nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
That said, I sincerely believe it would be a huge oversight if Turner were to be overlooked when future Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded because of everything he has done to make the world a safer and better place to live.
We cannot overstate the role that CNN, the 24-hour news network that Turner founded in 1980, has played in bringing the world closer together.
Today CNN’s portfolio of news and information services is available in five different languages in more than 200 countries across major television, internet and mobile platform — reaching 268 million households. CNN has more than 1,000 affiliates worldwide through CNN Newsource, the most extensive news service offered by a broadcast network.
When Turner was running CNN, he used it as a platform to open communications among world leaders (think Cuba’s Fidel Castro), to produce documentaries about critical global issues, such as the environment and nuclear weapons. Captain Planet was a children’s show produced by Turner’s media empire to raise awareness among members of the next generation.
In the 1980s, Turner became concerned by the increased political tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, especially after the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow; and the boycott by Soviet and most of the Eastern Bloc countries of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
So Turner created the Goodwill Games, an international sports competition to thaw the icy relationship between the West and the Soviet bloc. The first Goodwill Games was held in Moscow in 1986, and they were held every four years until the last one was held in Brisbane, Australia in 2001.
The Goodwill Games are just one example of how Turner has tried to diffuse tensions in the world — this time using sports as way to promote world peace.
In 1997, Turner became concerned that the United States was not paying its debt to the United Nations and was in danger of losing its vote in the UN General Assembly.
He announced a $1 billion pledge to support the United Nations and its causes, and he created the UN Foundation. He also founded the Better World Campaign — a national effort to ensure the United States worked closely with the United Nations, including paying dues on time and in full.
The UN Foundation built upon Turner’s transformational $1 billion pledge by bringing in hundreds of thousands of additional supporters, enabling the Foundation to double the impact of Turner’s gift to a total of more than $2 billion to promote “a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.” It has four core priorities — women and population, children’s health, the environment, and peace and security.
In 1990, Turner created his family foundation — the Turner Foundation — to focus on the environment and population. The foundation supports efforts to improve air and water quality, develop a sustainable energy future to protect our climate, safeguard environmental health, maintain wildlife habitat protection and develop practices and policies to curb population growth rates.
A core grantee of the Turner Foundation is the Turner Endangered Species Fund, which works to conserve biodiversity by restoring endangered or imperiled species on Turner-owned properties, which total more than 2 million acres.
As significant of each of the above contributions has been, when it comes to world peace, perhaps the most significant entity that Turner has created is the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
In early 2001, Turner launched NTI, a foundation that he co-chairs with former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. NTI works to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the world. The charitable organization is an independent voice that helps alleviate one of the most dangerous threats facing our world.
Turner has been asked why he has invested in all these causes.
“It’s Planet Earth. The whole place. I’ve been from the Arctic to the rainforest to the equator to the desert. I’ve been in over 70 countries,” Turner has been quoted as saying. “I love this world. I want to see humanity succeed, and learn to live in peace and harmony with the environment and each other.”
As I said, it’s hard to imagine any one who is more deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize than our own Ted Turner.