Friday, October 9, 2009

Does President Obama Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

The awarding today of the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Obama raises a simple question: What has he done to deserve it? This question has a very straightforward answer: He has changed the course of a nation, and, in a real sense, the world, for the better.

Within less than nine months as President, Obama has taken America out of the role of loose cannon, rolling about wildly on the deck of the global ship of state, and into the role of a leader among cooperating nations. He has advanced the cause of nuclear disarmament, which has languished for years, even as the threat of nuclear war has hung like the sword of Damocles over the world for nearly two-thirds of a century. (Read an earlier post about nuclear disarmament here.) He has reversed U.S. policy on the use of torture, a policy that had actually promoted terrorism. He has reversed the direction of the United States on global warming, which has the potential to incite war in the long term through its effect on population centers and agriculture.

The function of the Nobel Prize is not merely to reward someone, but to hold that someone up as an example for others to follow. Although some of Obama’s efforts have yet to bear fruit, the mere fact of his undertaking these efforts, and the very real results that have been obtained so far, are a much-needed inspiration for everyone from schoolchildren to statespersons. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama makes his message of hope, and the value of working hard in the cause of peace, that much stronger.

There are those who criticize the Nobel Peace Prize Committee because they have not, in this case, followed the example of the committees regarding awards in the sciences, where Nobel Prizes are awarded years after some achievement. This is a foolish comparison. We are living in a crucial moment of world history, when the potential for catastrophe—nuclear, environmental, biological—is very great. The time to act is now. Consequently, the time for inspiration is now.

It is written that a very small rudder can move a very large ship. The efforts of President Obama, although in some cases still in their early stages, are what the world needs to achieve peace now, on multiple fronts. It is not only that those efforts deserve this award, although they do. However, in addition to that, the people of America and the world need the inspiration to follow the President’s example. Faced with an unprecedented level of challenge and risk, the entire world needs to think, “Yes—we can! And the world needs to think this now, not twenty years from now.

In the matter of this award, the Nobel Committee, and especially President Barack Obama himself, are On The Mark.

(This post expands on a comment of mine on a news item in The Huffington Post. The original news article is available here. An archive of all my comments on The Huffington Post is available here. Readers are welcome to become what The Huffington Post calls “fans” of mine on HuffPost.)

[The photo of the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to Norman Angell, on exhibit to the public at the Imperial War Museum in London, was taken on August 26, 2005 by Anubis3. The image was obtained through Wikipedia, and is in the public domain in the United States.]

(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)


  1. Sorry Mark, but I'm a believer in "actions speak louder than words". Obama is certainly an eloquent speaker, but I have yet to see any results, particularly in the area of world peace. He was nominated two weeks into his administration! For that matter, every new American president has the "potential" to accomplish great things and should automatically be awarded the Peace prize. The prize should be reserved for an individual has has had a real and positive impact.

  2. Anonymous: Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. I would point out a couple of things, though.

    It matters not to me that he was nominated two weeks into his administration. It is what he has done in the 32 weeks since that determined that the nomination was made into an election.

    In addition, I do not believe at all that the Prize was awarded on the basis of potential. Rather, it is because of the real and positive impact that President Obama actually has had that he received the Prize--most particularly in the area of world peace.

    At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to point out the following:

    *As October 2008, the United States had established itself as a maverick among nations, willing to go to war with almost nothing in the way of international consensus. Yes, we had allies, but not the will of the free world behind us. As of Oct. 2009, the United States had re-established itself as a true leader of the free world, working in cooperation with other free nations, rather than unilaterally.

    *In 10/08, the United States was torturing prisoners. Not only is this a remarkably ineffective way to get useful and reliable intelligence, not only is it a violation of our own international agreements, not only is it a betrayal of our own best principles as a nation, but it also serves to encourage new terrorists and their violence. As of 10/09, the US does not torture people.

    *In 10/08, nuclear disarmament was essentially comatose as an American policy, leaving nuclear propagation as a continuing threat to global peace. As of 10/09, it is an active aspect of American governmental policy, which is one of the best things that could happen for world peace. In addition, President Obama has gotten several other foreign leaders to sign on, in principle, to the objective of nuclear disarmament. (I'll be adding a link in the post to an earlier post on nuclear disarmament that describes my thoughts on this point in more detail.)

    These are all achievements--not potential, not promise, not dreams, but achievements. Frankly, any one of these three achievements is itself deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. The three of them together should remove all doubt.

  3. Mark, with this commentary you ARE right on the Mark. The energy of our intentions is actually the driving force that moves us into action. If our intentions don't reflect a desire for copperation and peace, but rather a desire to win by any means available, including force, then that is preciely the outcome that will manifest (proven over tthe last 8 years.) I believe President Obama is the greatest driving force for peace this planet has seen in a very long time. And as you say, although his objectives have not as yet come completely to fruition, if we allow him to continue, our world will be so much better off because he was elected President. It troubles me deeply that there are so many people out there who don't understand this principle, and like Dan Brown said in his interivew, when people truly begin to realize their mind can actually control matter, they will use it to try and thwart the efforts of those like Obama who is only trying to raise the vibration of our planet and her people. His opponents will instead let their fears drive them to, in reality, commit evil. And the sad thing is, they will think that what they are doing is good. Isn't that a prediction for the end of times?;-)

  4. Sheri: Thank you for your kind words, and for sharing your thoughts.

    You bring to mind the words of the Buddha at the beginning of the Dhammapada: "With our thoughts we make the world."


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