for what?

I respect Barack Obama. He's a good speaker, with a great sense of humor and a reputation as a comic book geek. He seems like he'd be a great guy to converse with, even if I didn't vote for him or agree with a lot of his political views and plans. He made a lot of promises on which he has yet to deliver, but that's pretty much true of any politician regardless of party affiliation. You say what you need to say, what your voters want to hear on the campaign trail, whether or not it's within your intent or power to deliver once you are in office. I understand and accept that. His diehard opposition will pounce on every failed promise of change while the swing voters begin to swing back the other way. His extreme supporters see nothing but rainbows and flower petals. I guess my own views are slightly right of center. And in a bipartisan system, I accept whomever the majority of the population puts in office, because that person is our president for the next 4 to 8 years. In time he may bring about the changes he promised. Some raise concerns, while others yield the possibility for actual good. Right now, there's potential for both positive and negative outcomes.

So I was a bit puzzled to hear that our president had won the Nobel Peace Prize. It's an honor, and something our whole country should be proud of, wherever we land on the political spectrum. But the condition of the prize, as Alfred Nobel outlined in his will, is that it should go to "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." So my question is, does Obama qualify? Is the word “work” in there crucial in the implication that the winner would have done something concrete? Settled a dispute? Ended a conflict? Helped a country in need?

And I'm not saying he won't do any of these things in time. To his credit, I think he had the best possible response to a win that surprised even him, that he views it as a “call to action”. He himself recognizes that he's been put in a position he must now live up to. A lot of his votes came from people who were unhappy that George W. Bush sent troops to Iraq. We got Hussein. And either there were no weapons of mass destruction to begin with, or they were moved out of the country prior to the invasion. There's a lot more to that story I suspect than was made public, and any civilian debates on the matter would ultimately break down into opinion without having all the facts. But at this point in time, there doesn't seem to be a reason to still have troops there. Obama has yet to undo what people were unhappy with Bush for doing. And he's committed more troops to Afghanistan, where we still haven't found Osama bin Laden. How does “abolition or reduction of standing armies” apply here?

To make things even more interesting, the deadline to nominate a potential winner was February 1st. Obama had only been in office since January 20th. So his name went into consideration based upon his intentions or promises. It's very strange. I certainly support his efforts toward eliminating nuclear weapons, but he hasn't done it yet, if it can be done. Can his diplomatic skills reach Iran or Korea? Can he make the world a better place? I won't rule it out. But as Lech Walesa said, this may be too soon. A look at past winners shows people who made concrete changes to the world prior to getting the award. Jean Henry Dunant founded the International Committee of the Red Cross. Teddy Roosevelt helped mediate peace in the Russo-Japanese War. Woodrow Wilson founded the League of Nations. Mother Teresa dedicated her life to working with the sick and the poor. Martin Luther King Jr. worked toward equality and peace and paid the ultimate price for his efforts.

Over the years, the prize has had its share of controversies, winners who would go on to do things contrary to peace or have their contributions later disproved. Some refused. There were notable contributors to peace whose efforts went surprisingly unrecognized, including Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, César Chávez and others. The significance of the award should be taken with a grain of salt.

It's all very strange. It's nice when extraordinary individuals are recognized for achievements and accomplishments. It's certainly a point of patriotic pride when the winner comes from your own country. Will Obama in his political career make contributions to merit such an award? Maybe. Has he, or had he prior to February 1st? I'm not sure. What do you think? I'd love to hear views from both sides of the spectrum....


Blogger Lorna said...

I think the president's reaction is typical of the reason he was nominated in the first place, and awarded so prestigious a prize. We want to believe.

He and Jimmy Carter both gave me hope that the world could be a better place.

I do however, come in way left of centre on almost anything....

10/10/2009 9:43 AM  

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