The Academy Award for Human Achievement
What do you value? Are you pursing it in the life you live? Are you striving for it in the career you have chosen? Are you giving to it in the charities you support? These questions came to mind as I reflected on what our society values, particularly in the aftermath of being invited to watch my friend, Alvin Roth, receive the Nobel Prize in Economics, in Stockholm, Sweden. Would you rather go to the Academy Award Ceremony or the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony? I think it’s safe to say I’m in the minority in answering that question.
In my last blog, we learned what Alfred Nobel valued – those human accomplishments that confer the “greatest benefit on mankind”. As Nobel reflected on who he thought were the greatest contributors to the human race, he decided that intellectual achievements were the human acts that he wanted to enshrine with his money and his name. Every year since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize.
Take a moment now and consider what you hold as the highest human achievements. Do your ideas coincide with what you think we as a society value most? As we reflect on careers that generate the highest compensation, it appears that society has come to value sports and entertainment more than teachers and scientists. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard being a Wolverine for the last decade and I love going to the movies. But my guess is that Alfred Nobel got it right—that advances in human understanding do more to advance the human condition than anything else.
Fortunately, that’s what we are all about here at the University of Toledo. We are helping to produce the thought leaders of tomorrow and I’ve had the good fortune to train several students and residents who have already gone on to make the world a better place. How about you? Who do you want to be when you grow up? Every day until we die, we have the opportunity to become that person. Think about how you invest your time and money—because like Alfred Nobel, that’s how you’re going to be remembered.