Nobel Nuggets, Part II

Theodore Roosevelt in 1912


The pacifists were not a monolithic bunch. You had the pure, or absolute, pacifists — opposed to war and war-making no matter what. And you had pacifists who supported wars of defense or wars of liberation.

There were pacifists who supported an “armed peace,” which is to say, a peace during which nations are armed, even to the teeth. Indeed, some pacifists maintained that the arms kept the peace. (This is deterrence, in short.) Other people said that an armed peace was no kind of peace at all, but rather a war waiting to happen. Peace could not truly be safe unless nations were disarmed, or armed extremely lightly.


Do you know about Fridtjof Nansen, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922? He was one of the most talented, most extraordinary people you’ll ever encounter. I’ll supply the most mundane information first: Nansen was a Norwegian who lived from 1861 to 1930.

He was . . . let’s see: an athlete, an explorer, a scientist, a professor, a diplomat, an executive, a humanitarian. And when I say he was those things, I don’t mean that he merely dabbled in the relevant activities. I mean he was those things at the highest levels.

Not just an athlete, for example, but a champion and setter of world records (in skating and skiing). Not just an explorer, but a heroic one. Not just a scientist, but a pioneering one. Etc.

I call him a real-life Indiana Jones, only more impressive, in addition to real.

He won the peace prize for dealing with prisoners of war, refugees, starving Russians, and other people, at the behest of the League of Nations and the Red Cross.

His assistant in Russia, by the way, was one of the ablest and most promising men in Norway: Vidkun Quisling. Anyone know what became of him?

Versatile as Nansen was, he didn’t compose music, so far as I know: but Charles G. Dawes did. Dawes was one of the 1925 laureates (along with Sir Austen Chamberlain, the British foreign secretary, and half-brother to Neville). He was vice president under Coolidge. Before being elected vice president, he led the Dawes Commission, which gave Germany new terms for reparations. It was for this that Dawes was awarded the peace prize.

In 1912, he composed a piece called Melody in A. It was played in parlors all across America, in various arrangements. Fritz Kreisler, the great violinist, adopted it as an encore, and recorded it. When Dawes died in 1951, Carl Sigmund took the Melody in A and put words to it — turning into a pop standard called “It’s All in the Game.”

The song became a huge hit for Tommy Edwards, after which it was covered by any number of musicians — Louis Armstrong, Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole, Engelbert Humperdinck, Van Morrison, Barry Manilow, Elton John . . .

On that note (ha ha), I think I’ll conclude Part II. Hope to see you tomorrow. Talk soon.

You may order Jay Nordlinger’s new book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World direct from National Review. Go here. Ask for a signature and an inscription, if you like.