Monday, October 12, 2009
The Peace Prize
This morning I was watching "Morning Joe" on MSNBC. I saw Christopher Hitchens and Pat Buchanan smugly pronouncing their negative opinions about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama. Many others have expressed similar opinions in recent days. "Enough!" I thought to myself. "I have heard enough." I have to write about this.
I am tired of these pompous pundits' derision of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. They say he hasn't accomplished anything. Some have said (half jokingly I think) that it's because he's not George Bush (personally, I think that's a pretty good reason, but I digress). I believe these pundits are looking at the issue through too narrow a lens. Maybe from a domestic viewpoint we don't recognize how much he has done from the perspective of worldwide opinion.
I was moved to tears as I listened to his speech in Germany in July, 2008. His speech was titled "A World that Stands as One". In his opening statement he said, "Tonight I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen; a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world". A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD... those words are what stood out for me. A citizen of the world! What a change from the previous eight years! I thought to myself, "thank goodness for this man, and I hope and pray he becomes our President".
I believe that speech must have been the moment when someone on the Nobel committee must have first thought of Barack Obama and the Peace Prize in the same context. Of course the cynics have said, "yeah he gives a great speech... that's no reason to give him the Peace Prize". I believe it wasn't the fact that "he gives a great speech". It was what the speech represented... it represented a new hope for cooperation between the United States and the rest of the world. To those of us who cringed every time we saw the United States being represented by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, this was a revelation. We had been waiting eight long years for a thoughtful, intelligent leader who realizes that, in today's world we can not just stand up and bully the rest of the world.
The speech in Berlin was just the beginning. Since then, our President has gone to Egypt and spoken directly to the Muslim world. As he said, "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect". I realize that some feel this represents weakness; they believe all Muslims are terrorists. But Obama pointed out that not all Muslims are terrorists, and that good people of that faith should not be painted with the same brush. One Muslim leader pointed out that Obama's speech in Cairo "represents a positive direction" in relations between the United States and the rest of the world.
In summary, I believe those who claim President Obama won the Peace Prize only because he gives good speeches are missing the point. I believe the philosophy behind those speeches and the reaction of the rest of the world is the point. "So, what has he actually accomplished?" they ask. I believe he has accomplished a shift in attitudes around the world. That is quite an accomplishment after eight long years of being viewed with disdain, mistrust and resentment by the rest of the world.