The Washington Post

What’s the connection between a Nobel Prize winner and ‘Parks and Recreation’?

Retta, “Parks and Rec” star and niece of a Nobel Peace Prize winner. (NBC)

(Originally published Oct. 7)

Leslie Knope has never won a Nobel Prize. Sadly, neither has Ron Swanson. But it turns out there is a connection between one of the recently announced winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — the country’s first female president — was named as one of three Nobel Peace Prize recipients this year, for her efforts to establish peace and bolster women’s rights in Liberia. And Sirleaf happens to be the aunt of Retta, the sassy, speed-dating master Donna Meagle on “Parks and Recreation.” (Retta’s full name? Retta Sirleaf.)

The other Nobel Peace Prize winners were Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni opposition leader Tawakkol Karman.

Updated: Retta shared her thoughts on her aunt’s achievement via e-mail.

“I heard the news this morning from a friend in Italy who said ‘Looks like your aunt has taken over the role as the most famous in the Sirleaf clan.’ To which I replied, ‘Yeah, now I gotta go find some drowning babies to save before the next family reunion. This is some bull[expletive]!’ ”

“Talked to my mom  a little while ago and she too was getting calls about it,” she wrote. “My mom knows Ellen as ‘Iron Ellen’ because as my mom puts it, ‘She didn’t take no mess. She didn’t like the way the former presidents were running the country and wanted to do something about it. Her outspokenness often got her in trouble.’  She says that Ellen loves that country and loves the people and isn’t surprised that she won the election back in ’05 because she’s very determined. My father, who had just walked in while I was on the phone with my mother, hadn’t even heard the news. He was just glad the Yankees lost to the Tigers [Thursday] night. Dad is a diehard Met fan and as far as he’s concerned, a Yankee loss is a Met win and a Met win is as good a Nobel Prize.” 

Related links:

‘Parks and Rec’: Five lessons learned from ‘Born & Raised’

More ‘Parks and Rec’ recaps

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.


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