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Nobel Laureate Barack Obama?

President Obama speaks about the award. Coverage by MSNBC.

President Obama speaks about the award. Coverage by MSNBC (link).

Nobel laureate Barack Obama?

I admire President Obama, but I was surprised when the Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

According to the Nobel Committee, it chose him because of “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” It also cited his efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

Those are both good things. But are they really why he got the award?

The first reason, “efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation,” seems like part of the unofficial job description of the U.S. president. President Obama is certainly making such efforts, but the most important thing he did was not to be George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. Everything else he’s done follows from that.

Both in America and other countries, we are so relieved to be rid of the previous administration  — with its paranoia, torture, aggression, and bigotry — that almost any sane president would seem like a hero.

As for the second reason, reducing nuclear weapons — well, I’m for it. But every president says he wants to reduce nuclear weapons, and almost all the other countries publicly agree. But then nothing changes, except that more countries get nuclear weapons. So I’m skeptical about that reason.

Unlike other Nobel prizes, which are awarded for great achievements in science or literature, the Peace Prize is kind of a feel-good prize. It’s also much more influenced by politics. Some previous winners have done great things to deserve it. Others, like President Obama, seem like good people doing a good job who just happened to be there at the right time. Previous winners have included:

  • Doctors Without Borders for its international humanitarian work
  • U.S. Vice President Al Gore for his work on global warming
  • U.S. President Jimmy Carter for promoting peace in the Middle East
  • Dr. Martin Luther King for promoting social justice and non-violence
  • Biochemist Linus Pauling for opposing nuclear-weapons testing
  • Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin for seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians
  • A whole lot of people you’ve never heard of

What I really think is this:

The Nobel Committee honored Obama’s sincere efforts to do the right thing. At the same time, it gave a big raised middle finger to the previous administration.

What I really hope is this:

President Obama’s award will help him promote peaceful resolutions to international problems and sensible, humane resolutions to our problems at home in the United States.


Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.

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  1. October 10, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Too much too soon. Even he has to be surprised.

    Charlie Brown may be right: Some fail because of unlimited potential and this is way too musch considering all he has to do,

    I hope he suceeds, but it becomes harder when the expectations become more unreasonable.

  2. Rinth de Shadley
    October 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Hi, Reamus 🙂

    You’re right that there is a danger of expecting too much.

    However, I did think that President Obama struck the right note in his speech. He said that he didn’t think he deserved the award (which was good whether he deserved it or not, because it showed humility) and that he thought that it was encouragement for him and everyone else to do the right things.

    The Republican attack machine reacted predictably, but we won’t worry about that too much.

  3. October 10, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Yes they did, and will for a long time. Just makes it harder for him to get things done. As one columnist said, it may be that he will go on a do some wondrous things. What the? The Nobel for Totally Awesome People?

    He just didn’t need the baggage right now. The Europeans can love him all they want without it.

  4. October 14, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I think they should probably go ahead and change the name of this award. To what, I will not say. And by “say,” I mean put it into writing. Because I already said it a couple days ago (when I was drinking)…

    • Rinth de Shadley
      October 14, 2009 at 2:48 pm

      Hi, Lee Lee 🙂

      Thanks for the funny comment! As one of my professors said, in vino, veritas (in wine, there is truth). 🙂

      BTW, you had some great stories and articles on your site http://www.30POV.com this month. Everyone should check it out.

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