Two Chicago Community Organizers and the Nobel Peace Prize

Good morning.

In 1931, Jane Addams, a community organizer in Chicago since founding Hull House a full 40plus years before, won the Nobel Peace Prize, for work she’d begun almost two decades before.

According to the Nobel Prize Committee, see:, here are some reasons why Addams won: “…[in 1913] at a ceremony commemorating the building of the Peace Palace at The Hague and in the next two years, as a lecturer sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation,[Addams] spoke against America’s entry in to the First World War. For the next 14 years, she served as the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.”

According to CNN’s report this morning, see: (,quoting the Nobel Prize Committee’s press release: Our President’s “…diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

Continuing, CNN said: “Obama’s recognition comes less than a year after he became the first African-American to win the White House….Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, last year’s laureate, said it was clear the Nobel committee wanted to encourage Obama on the issues he has been discussing on the world stage.

“‘I see this as an important encouragement,’ Ahtisaari said.

“The committee wanted to be ‘far more daring’ than in recent times and make an impact on global politics,’ said Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the International Peace Research Institute.

“And Wangari Muta Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who won the 2004 Peace Prize, said the win for Obama, whose father was Kenyan, would help Africa move forward.

“‘I think it is extraordinary,’ she said. ‘It will be even greater inspiration for the world. He has shown how we can probably come together, work together in a cooperative way.'”

You tell me: What’s the matter with this picture? A woman slogs away for 42 years and wins a prize. A man wins the very same prize because it is hoped he will be encouraged to further inspire and “make an impact.”

What’s truly “daring”? I say it’s having the courage of your convictions, sticking with them for a lifetime, and demonstrating results.

Tragically, a full century-plus later since Jane Addams began to demonstrate the courage of her convictions, and to show results, in a very rough Chicago neighborhood, we still live in a world where the scales of justice are uneven.

Think about it: Would any woman have won the Nobel Peace Prize, so that she would be “encouraged” to do the right thing?

It’s a laughable notion.


“SiveSiftings: Rebecca Sive Talks Back,” by Rebecca Sive

Welcome to “SiveSiftings: Rebecca Sive Talks Back.”

SiveSiftings will highlight significant organizing opportunities and policy changes, big ideas, innovative strategies, and tactics and connections that can advance equality and social justice.

SiveSiftings will cover the views of opinion leaders, the actions of technology inventors and public officials, and the grass-roots activities of community organizers and neighborhood leaders.

SiveSiftings will come in the form of musings, strongly-worded opinions, interviews with thought leaders and public figures, to-do lists, manifestos and action proposals.

This is the second edition of SiveSiftings. I first wrote SiveSiftings for my high school newspaper. At that time, I was motivated to share my thoughts about the matter of race, just as I will in this second edition.

Several years before I started writing that high-school column, I had started taking the New York subway. Diversity and differences of all kinds were all around me. I found that I was endlessly curious about the communities my fellow and sister subway-riders came from, were going-to, the kinds of lives they lived, the opportunities they had, and, most of all, about what the other girls on the subway thought lay ahead for them.

The news of that subway-riding and revolutionary era–news from Mississippi and Alabama, Newark, Detroit and Chicago–put my subway-riding observations in a larger context. I realized there were sky-high–and subway-tunnel deep–impediments to equality for too many in the crowds of subway-riders around me. And so I moved to Chicago and started a lifetime’s work of community organizing and social justice advocacy.

Today, at another time of great American revolution, I write SiveSiftings again because, once again, faint hearts and meek actions won’t suffice. Once again, we must look, listen, learn, and then act courageously and forcefully.

I write from Chicago, where I’ve been inspired by Dr. King, Saul Alinsky, Jane Addams and many others; where there is still so much to learn, and still so much to do, even though we have inspired our gifted new President.

I hope you’ll take a look at my Blogroll and Resources list, subscribe to SiveSiftings, and e-mail me about topics I should discuss and people I should interview. And do tell me what’s on your social-change to-do list. I’m confident we can figure this out together.

Rebecca Sive