Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Barack Obama: The Nobel Peace Prize Debate

Good question: Does President Barack Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

I don't know. I wasn't the person who nominated him, and, more importantly, I wasn't part of the committee spending several months evaluating the nominees.

When I first heard the news, I'll admit I was a bit surprised. But then again, so was Obama. He didn't campaign for this. He even said he "[does] not feel that [he] deserve[s] to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize."

Some people feel if he doesn't think he deserves it, then he could always decline it. I feel that's a ridiculous idea. It's one of the most prestigious awards in the world! If a group spent months and months deciding to give the award to him, it would be offensive to NOT accept it. The funny thing about Obama is that he CARES whether or not he offends international figures. I know in the previous eight years that might not have been the case, and maybe we've grown accustomed to that mentality.

Let me use an analogy to better illustrate why declining the award would have greater repercussions than we think:

Imagine being in high school again, and Sadie Hawkin's Dance has girls starting to ask boys out. Now, imagine the girl every guy wants to ask him out. She gets on the intercom for the morning announcements and asks out a guy. She could have had any guy, and she picked him. And he's says no - on the morning announcements, as well.

Is she offended or at least embarrassed? Of course. Does life go on? Of course. She goes ahead and asks someone else out. However, how excited is the next guy? He's very publicly the second choice. Sure, he goes, but he knows darn well she didn't want to come with him.
It's the same thing with the award. If we feel he hasn't done enough to deserve the award, how is the second-choice recipient going to feel about the committee thinking his accomplishments weren't as impressive as Obama's?

"I nursed 3,000 soldiers back to health, and Obama was picked over me?!?!"
I mean, maybe it was because of Obama's diplomacy efforts and attempts to open talks to leaders with whom we don't have a good relationship.

Maybe it was because he has shown no signs of starting another war as president (that bar is pretty low) .

Maybe it was a weak year for peace.

I don't know. There are a lot of people who spend a lot more time considering it than I do, which brings me to my main point:

Better question: Who cares?
Is it October already? I can't believe it has already been a year since the last Nobel Prizes were awarded.

Remember all of the articles we read leading up to the decisions?

Remember turning on the TV and all of the talk show hosts were listing their predictions for the Nobel Prizes?

Remember how the whole world was abuzz about who was going to win?

Remember talking about whether or not the winners deserved it or who really deserved it for hours and hours after the decisions were made?

Me neither.

My point is we almost NEVER care about the Nobel Prize winners. Why do so many people spend so much time whining about Obama winning it? I don't remember Martti Ahtisaari or Shirin Ebadi going through this same skepticism.

The reason is hatred. Many people hate Obama for his politics, and they feel everyone else should hate him (see Opinionators).

Well, guess what? The Norwegian Nobel Committee doesn't hate him. Get over it.

Here's what they said:

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. 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.

Is that impossible to believe? It shouldn't be. Maybe you don't agree with his policies on the economy or health care, but can you say he doesn't make more peaceful efforts to resolve conflicts?

Maybe he's not the most deserving of the award, but you didn't care when Wangari Maathai or Mohamed El Baradei won it, why do you care so much now?


  1. Nicely put. In addition to the issue above, it seems as if issues no one really cared about before seem to be a big deal now that Obama is president. I think he put it comically when he told Jay Leno recently, "I think people forget I was black before I was President."

  2. Obviously he did not campaign for the prize, but the thing that irks many is the blind devotion paid to him. This year, Obama had not accomplished anything by the nomination deadline except one, win an election, and two, not be George W. Bush.

    If 5 or 10 years down the road Obama's policies had proven to increase world peace, then great. Until then, I see that he has increased the deficit by about a trillion and a half, vowed to lessen our own military strength, and shredded our Constitution (i.e. Czars), all the while basking in the glory of his celebrity status.

    What is happening in Washington is against common sense. Against Thomas Paine's Common Sense, against Beck's Common Sense, and against the common sense of anyone who has realized how much our government is wasting.

    Obama seems to be a nice guy, but the problem with him winning a Nobel Prize for winning an election (remember that the nomination deadline was less than two weeks after inauguration) is that it dilutes the value of the prize and proves that it is just another political tool.