I Like Peace. Can I Have A Prize Too?
October 13, 2009
Last week President Obama received the highly esteemed Nobel Peace Prize. I have to admit, that even though I have been a vocal supporter of our new president, my first thoughts were “what, was it a slow peace year?” Hey, I like the president and I support most of what he is doing, although I think he is missing the boat a bit on the whole health care thing (see my previous columns.) But this whole Nobel Peace prize thing did take me, as it did the president himself, a bit by surprise. As soon as I heard this announcement, I knew that the right would jump all over this, whether he deserved it or not, and I was correct. But as Michael Moore said in a letter he wrote soon after the announcement, “I get the feeling that if you found the cure for cancer this afternoon they'd be denouncing you for destroying free enterprise because cancer centers would have to close.” The criticisms were fierce. Glenn Beck said “…Obama doesn't deserve the prize, but the Tea Party protesters do.” Erick Erickson of the web site, Redstate, made it a race issue saying that the Nobel Committee must have picked Obama to meet some “affirmative actions quota”. And Rush Limbaugh said "Something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award." But what interests me more than if he deserves it or not is why we are so surprised by this. On the surface it seems obvious. He has only been in office 10 months and the nominations were made only 2 weeks after he took office. This was hardly time for major peace accomplishment to be made. We don’t see nations being brought together after lengthy meetings, handshakes being made over peace treaties that change the world, Rush Limbaugh running down the beach while holding hands with Keith Olbermann.
But I think that the true reason why we are so surprised by this is simple. We are uninformed, not about all of the awesome peace accomplishments of President Obama, but about the criteria and individuals that make up the Nobel Committee. The Nobel Peace Prize is not a prize that is given by the United Nations or the even a single person from the United States. It is given by the Norwegian Nobel Committee which is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegain Parliament). They do not answer to the U.S., they do not answer to the U.N., and technically they do not even answer to Norway. But they do reflect the politics of the Norwegain Parliament, the European community, and the criteria of the Nobel Foundation. And in my opinion, which in this debate does not amount to a hill of beans, the only opinions that matter here are the five individuals of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. And whether Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, you, me or Joe Six Pack (gosh by golly) thinks that President Barak Obama deserves this prize or not, is irrelevant. This is the Nobel Peace Prize, not the Fox News peace prize, in which case I am sure Glenn Beck would give it to himself while he cries about how much he loves this country. In the words of the Nobel Committee “Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics… Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened… Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His 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…The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges." The bottom line is that President Obama met the guidelines and values set out by the Nobel Committee. According to them, he deserved it. And for that we should be gracious and simply say thank you. It is not our award, it is there’s.
The day after President Obama won the election I was listening to the radio, and the show I had on was taking calls from listeners from all over the world. Not a single caller was a United States citizen, voted in the election or currently resided in the United States. The calls came from places such as Ireland, France, South America, Israel and so on. Every caller expressed their happiness, there joy for the future, there new found respect for the United States. People called with tears in their eyes that they never thought they would see the U.S. do what they had done on that day. Their reactions were the same as the thousands of people who stood in Grant Park the evening of November 4th 2008 with looks of disbelief, tears of joy, and hope for change to come. This award the president received was not for the obvious deeds that some others deserved this award for, but for the new found hope he inspired, for the change that is now possible, and for the message of Yes We Can that the Nobel Committee believes will someday become Yes We Did.
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