The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Every city has those things that set it apart; the river walks, the parks, the theater/hipster/activity districts.

And yes, Tacoma has, or could have, any of those.

We have some of the most innovative schools in the country.

And our parks are second to none. Our outdoor activities, from scuba-diving to mountain climbing to walks along the waterfront are immediate and accessible to all.

But we have more than that. The greater Tacoma area has people who, with a vision, and often not much more than that, have made a lasting difference.

Looking beyond the headlines

If you based your opinion of Tacoma (as many do) on the headlines and news reports, you could be forgiven for assuming that Tacoma is a seething pit of crime and unending menace and murder.

I have talked to several people in Seattle who are literally afraid to come to Tacoma.

But, as a social media profile might put it, it’s complicated.

It is easy to slip into negativity and cynicism.

It is not always so easy, or even acceptable, to look forward, up and in new directions for cooperation and restoration – or even to firmly established hope and trust in our future, our young people and our elected leaders.

And, as in the case of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, recognizing those who, often behind the scenes and at great sacrifice, and with minimal recognition or acknowledgment, strive to make their community (and ours) a better place.

The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize was first awarded in 2005 during the Centennial celebration of Norway’s independence.

The award has its roots in the local incarnation of Norwegian-American culture.

Modelled after the internationally recognized Nobel Prize for Peace, which is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize was established by a committee of members from the three largest Pierce County based Norwegian American institutions (Sons of Norway, Daughters of Norway, and Pacific Lutheran University).

The first Greater Tacoma Peace Prize was awarded on May 17, 2005 (Norwegian Constitution Day). It has been awarded annually since then.

Recipients of the locally based Peace Prize are given a banquet in their honor, a medallion, a diploma, a unique piece of glass art honoring their accomplishments, and a trip for two to Norway to attend the festivities surrounding the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Who are the recipients?

The recipients are not necessarily (or even predominantly) Norwegian – and, in many cases, may not even be widely known. You might not even “agree” with some of them.

But, for better or worse, they have pursued a vision that has, to some degree, made a positive, maybe even lasting, impact on our community.

I have met a few of the past recipients (you can see them here).

Some are prominent movers and shakers, others are quiet inspirations. Some are activists, some have been office-holders, some have been teachers or pastors, some have been lonely prophets or advocates for unpopular causes.

Some have even been arrested or mocked for their beliefs and values. But no matter what the response, or level of opposition, they, for better or worse, persisted.

In their idiosyncratic ways, and wildly different styles, agendas and intentions, they sum up, or at least capture a glimpse of what we could be if we were free to soar, embrace and embody the unique, effervescent, and often clumsy humanity and community we find ourselves sharing.

Those who have been awarded (or even nominated for) the local peace prize are, for the most part, local citizens, often with little official qualifications, but with a sustained passion for peace, justice, and reconciliation here and often many miles beyond their own borders.

It is always the season for peace and restoration.

We may not always appreciate these voices, but we need them far more than we may ever know.

Nominate someone

If you know someone dedicated to the community and who should be recognized, nominate them today. Who should be nominated?

As their website puts it;

The nominee must have significantly contributed to local, regional, national, or world peace and harmony and/or had a positive impact on the Greater Tacoma area. In particular, the Committee will look at the nominee’s genuine commitment to peace, attention to diversity, hands-on involvement in peace work, longevity of service in peace work, and impact of peace work.

They are taking nominations for the local prize until March 31, 2023. If you have someone you’d like to nominate, you can see the online form here or you could email them at

You could also keep an eye on their website here.

A program like this is the product of many hands from many organizations. You can see a list of local and global partners in peace here.

And if you have a vision for something that needs to be said or done, go do it now. The ideal time will probably never arrive. Step out and share your passion, you are likely to find others who care about it as well.

Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible. – Doris Lessing

Who knows? You just might be honored in Oslo.