I was sitting with my wife when the news of our president winning the Nobel Peace Prize was announced on one of the cable news channels. As she exclaimed a shocked, yet proud “Wow!” at the revelation of this momentous honor, I unintentionally started to rain on her Obama parade. I calmly turned to her and, in a quiet monotone, simply said, “The Republicans are going to turn this into something terrible.” I wish I had been wrong.
One would think that there would be some semblance of national pride as a result of such a notable distinction bestowed on our sitting president, but the “haterade” flowed freely and immediately from conservative lackeys such as Republican National Party Chairman Michael Steele, who claimed that Obama won the peace prize because of his “star power” rather than meaningful accomplishments.
Self-proclaimed patriot and legend-in-his-own-mind Rush Limbaugh kept his streak of political buffoonery alive and well when he noted that “Something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award."
Despite Limbaugh’s glee at finding common ground with Iran and the Taliban, and numerous other cynics questioning the decision of the Nobel committee, the fact still remains that Obama was found worthy, and is receiving the prize.
Even a staunch Obama supporter such as myself did raise an eyebrow (or two) when I heard that he was chosen for the award. I have always associated the renowned accolade with such powerful change agents as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. It was my own skepticism that forced me to pursue a basic intellectual exercise and research the stipulations set by Alfred Nobel regarding to whom the peace prize should be awarded.
In Nobel’s 1895 will, he stated that the eponymous peace prize should go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
Given Nobel’s first stipulation, there is undeniable and indisputable evidence that Obama has instigated measurable progress in cultivating fraternity between the nations.
In a July 2009 poll of 27,000 people from 25 different nations, the Pew Global Attitudes Project documented a double-digit boost to the percentage of our international neighbors who view the United States favorably. These same numbers had plunged significantly during the Bush administration.
While many have cited the hypocrisy of giving the peace prize to a president currently deliberating the need to increase military presence in Afghanistan and with yet more troops stationed in Iraq, it seems that the Nobel committee was astute enough to realize that our current and possibly future need for standing armies in certain regions is an inherited situation left for Obama to control and ultimately resolve.
As commander in chief, Obama has had to pursue an agenda of promoting peace and good will while protecting this country from those factions of extremists whose hatred of all things American has been fueled by the missteps and miscues of our past diplomacy or lack thereof.
In terms of the formation and spreading of “peace congresses,” one needs to look at the definition of congress as “a formal assembly of representatives, as of various nations, to discuss problems.”
Clearly, Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt that addressed the intent of our country to bridge the chasm between the Western and Muslim world qualifies as a peace congress of unprecedented scope and depth.
On the domestic front, Obama convened one of the most ambitious peace congresses before he even ascended to the role of president. His 2008 Philadelphia speech about “Race in America” put our most divisive national issue in front of a congress of American citizens in the hope of cultivating productive dialogue and mutual respect between the races.
Though skeptics of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize seem to be galvanized in their position that he has not really done anything but make speeches, they need to understand that dialogue is the predecessor to action, and the foundation for progress.
To quote Albert Einstein, winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics; “The world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
At the very least, Obama is trying to do something about it. Congratulations, Mr. President.