The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Barack Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 9 for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.”
But many people are wondering, what exactly were those efforts?
He hasn’t done anything concrete to bring peace to the world. But the Nobel committee praises “his vision of a world free from nuclear arms.”
But is that enough to win the award?
The United States is still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama ordered another 21,000 troops to fight in Afghanistan earlier this year. This, combined with a slight reduction in global nuclear weapons stockpiles since Obama took office, has some believing the award came a little too soon.
The Times of London editorialized its disdain with the decision on Oct. 9.
“Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent,” the Times said. “It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for the end to the Bush Administration.”
The Nobel committee is simply trying to make sure Obama ends what the Bush Administration began. After all, won’t winning the peace prize make the president think twice about sending additional troops overseas?
The Times also said, “The prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronizing in its intentions and demeaning in its attempts to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieve any tangible outcome for peace.”
This is another valid point. Unlike former Nobel-winning presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, Obama was nominated for the award less than two weeks after taking office.
Surely the president hasn’t accomplished as much as many past winners such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa.
How about something that hits a little closer to home?
On Oct. 2, non-profit organization Hope For The City chose the Rev. Dennis Dease, university president, for its “Partner in Hope Award,” praising his work establishing community medical clinics in Uganda. Run by nurse practitioners, these clinics charge patients an affordable price in places where there is little available health care. By 2015, Dease hopes to have 400 clinics around Uganda providing accessible, affordable health care.
Making basic health care accessible to every individual in a developing country is certainly more impressive than a bunch of pre-presidential rhetoric.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said it best.
“It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”
Others, like 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, disagree with this statement. They believe President Obama has already shown outstanding leadership and has spread a message of hope.
“In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself,” ElBaradei said.
President Obama’s reaction? He said in his acceptance speech that he was “most surprised and deeply humbled.”
My reaction was shared with many around the world: most surprised and deeply disappointed.
Zach Pagano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org