All the wringing of hands that surrounds President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize reminds me of a very early morning breakfast I had thirty years ago with another Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
It was January of 1979, and I woke up at five o’clock on a dark bleak Moscow morning to hail a cab outside the enormous, Stalinesque Hotel Russiya. I was a senior in college at Columbia University then, and I climbed into the taxi with my friend Mitchell. We both ran the university daily newspaper and through a series of phone calls from supposedly secure lines, we had arranged an interview with Andrei Sakharov on behalf of Ivy League student newspapers.
He had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work on behalf of human rights in the Soviet Union. Sakharov spent his earlier years as a nuclear physicist, part of a team of scientists that developed the Soviet hydrogen bomb. That work lead him into a life of relative privilege in the USSR – but as time worn on, he could not look past the corruption and abuse that plagued his country’s political system.