Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

It is difficult not to feel ambivalent about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama. It turns out that the “we” in “Yes, We Can” was even broader than the 53 percent of Americans who voted for him last November. But, while I count myself as a fan and, usually, a supporter of the President, it is hard not to think the award is a tad premature.

The award demonstrates that the sense of hope President Obama has inspired is not limited to Americans and the concerns of our nation but have transcended international boundaries. This is not merely another way of saying he is not George W. Bush. Conservatives complained mightily when candidate Obama went to the Victory Column in Berlin and gave a speech to the world, but the world noticed and they greatly appreciated the gesture.


The award also gives Americans, currently embroiled in partisan strife over health care reform, a chance to step back and realize what a great accomplishment Obama’s presidency is, for the whole country of course,  but for this man himself especially. Passions rise whenever the subject of race has come up, during the campaign or in the early months of his presidency, sometimes to the boiling point. For all of us, this can be stressful but the man who is the focus and the lens for that debate, it must be excruciating. Running for President is not a stress-free endeavor. Being President is not a stress-free endeavor. To be the first African-American to run for and serve as President demonstrates a man of extraordinary gifts, achieving something not only for himself but for the entire world. Indeed, the encomiums directed at the President by the participants in the Synod for Africa illustrate, like the award, that Obama and what his presidency represents, has ignited a sense of hope around the world. That is no small achievement.

America’s legacy of racial strife is one of the principal threads that runs through our history. But, that thread runs through other countries as well today. The influx of immigrants into the ancient nations of Europe is causing them to assess their cultural identity as well as their racial attitudes. One hundred years ago, one knew what it was to be a Frenchman or a Briton. Today, those countries need a different answer and Obama’s triumph – precisely because it was built with hope and confidence – holds out to them the possibility that they, too, can bridge the divides in their own societies.

So, why so ambivalent? At the very least we can conclude that the Nobel Committee is not, in the parlance of corporate restructuring, very “results oriented,” especially when you realize that nominations for the award had to be submitted by February 1, when he had been in office for a mere fortnight. Hope is a good thing, a theological virtue no less, and a source of our religious identity. (Of all my favorite quotes of St. Augustine, another favored son of Africa, my all-time favorite is “Our yearnings anticipate landfall.”) But, in the political realm, hope only points a direction, and the path remains to be trod. The Nobel Committee is right to applaud President Obama for saying that diplomacy must be the first avenue for the conduct of foreign policy, but it remains to be seen what the diplomacy he conducts will achieve. His outreach to the Muslim world in his speech in Cairo is a thing to be applauded but it is not yet clear if it is a thing that will be reciprocated.

Still, it is a good thing that the Nobel Committee, like the American people, voted their hopes not their fears. The ceremony will provide the President another opportunity to articulate his worldview, a worldview that speaks to that part of the human heart that wants to hope for a better day and a more peaceful world. Convincing the Nobel Committee may be easier than convincing the Afghan warlords, and the latter task is not made any easier because of the award: Afghan warlords don’t care what happens in Oslo. But, there are people in this world, mostly young people, some who live in Arabia, some who live in the suburbs of Paris, Berlin and Houston, who face a world of challenges and are not sure whether to take the path of violence or of peace. It is to them that the President must direct his Nobel speech for, in a very real way, they are the ones who won it for him.  



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9 years 3 months ago
While a surely a “tad premature,” Americans should be honored that the Nobel Committee reposes hope on our president and our nation. Recognition of the potential good that comes from the exercise of American power and influence honors all Americans. But there is some wisdom from Shakespeare that we should keep in mind.  In “Twelfth Night” he wrote:  “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”  By any of those measures, Obama is not there yet.
9 years 3 months ago
This is not so much a slap at Bush as at Cheney, who sourced much Bush policy.  The world pays attention to these issues, largely because by treaty the President controls much of the world's military when deployed - a fact made painfully clear when Bush acted almost unilaterally in Iraq.
9 years 3 months ago

Mother Teresa 1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: 'We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing- direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child- I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible - but even if she could forget - I will not forget you. And today the greatest means - the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here - our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child- what is left for me to kill you and you kill me- there is nothing between. And this I appeal in India, I appeal everywhere: Let us bring the child back, and this year being the child's year: What have we done for the child? At the beginning of the year I told, I spoke everywhere and I said: Let us make this year that we make every single child born, and unborn, wanted.'


9 years 3 months ago
Reading this was like a return to the Bush era.The sheer absurdity in front of reality.How did you get through the article without using the word "ridiculous"?.A man as Intelligent as you should be able to diagnose the mentality that offers this prize to President Obama on such short shrift and puts him forward after more or less ten days in office with those  who refused it to a certain polack who actually stopped wars.If we are human we hope that Obama will succeed in doing what he has promised,promises which brought him to the Oval Office .Jesuit nuance is a good thing and I appreciate the vision of America more every day however there comes a time (this is it) where an issue can be summed more succintly.Follow up article should be based around a contrite sense of how you have allowed yourself to fall into a Rovian mindset.A blast of the Rosary should get you there. 
9 years 3 months ago
The greatest destroyer of peace is the penchant for viewing all reality through only one narrow lens.  Abortion is one example of a very narrow lens through which to view reality.  Mother Theresa, for all the good she did, was not infallible, and I strongly - even vehemently - disagree with her very narrow lens.   An abortion will not snuff out an entire globe as would a nuclear holocaust - the very idea is absurd.  And, in some cases - like rape and incest aggression - abortion saves the true victim.  I applaud President Obama's efforts to reduce the number of abortions, but I will ALWAYS support decriminalizing the medical procedure that is life-saving for victims of rape and incest aggression. 
Further, I am thrilled the hope generated by President Obama is what drove the Nobel committee to this decision.  I sincerely hope all the bishops who opposed the Notre Dame commencement address and awarding of an honorary degree are being served extra-large portions of crow.  
9 years 3 months ago
He had a vision. He named his vision. When we voted for him, we supported his vision. That is what leadership is all about. Now that the vision has been named and supported, it is up to ALL OF US to make it happen.  Too many just worry about getting votes and/or power and not taking the risk.  Far, far too many sit back and wait for someone else to fix everything that is perceived to be wrong.  Legion sit way back (on talk radio especially) and complain without offeirng solutions.  This is OUR call to action.  I'm THRILLED!!  
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ's compassion to the world.  Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.  Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.  St. Teresa of Avila
9 years 3 months ago
I am disappointed with the same error that has now been repeated by America magazine relative to the difference between NOMINATION and SELECTION.  I truly believed that by subscribing to America magazine, a higher intellectual standard would be in place for journalistic analysis than is currently available.  However, now I see proof that America's editors are no better than the talking heads on Cable TV.  I subscribed to America to get a better perspective than Cable TV can offer and I am quite disappointed. 
Twelve Days after inauguration President OBAMA  was NOMINATED - NOT CHOSEN, NOT SELECTED, for the Nobel Prize. He was NOMINATED.  
 He was CHOSEN, SELECTED within the last few days, near the 2nd week of October. This is the traditional Nobel Schedule.  
So to state that his SELECTION is based on only 12 days of work is so intellectually lazy that it does not merit print here in America magazine.OK, then, is 9 months enough time?  Probably not. 
However, keep in mind that this particular President can walk and chew gum at the same time and has made a major accomplishment in the world that gives millions of people beyond our borders hope in the future.  Certainly, this is a stark contrast to the feeling of the world surrounding the arrogance, hubris, and mendacity of our prior President.
Also, this comment reveals the ignorance of the writer relative to the masterful campaign that Obama ran which in and of itself, gave the entire WORLD hope.  EVEN before the Election, Parisians were putting sweaters on their poodles bearing OBAMA's name.  How many Americans pay any attention to an election in another country??? Very few.  But the whole world was watching our election because of candidate Obama.
You writing is based on a false premise that President Obama spontaneously "hatched" full blown into the Presidency somewhere between New Years Day 2009 and Valentine's Day 2009 and the Nobel Prize is based on those 4 weeks of spontaneous generation. 
Nothing could be further from the truth.  His Presidency is a reflection of a lifetime of work and I am a proud American that the world thinks better of us now than it did a few short months ago.
9 years 3 months ago
We should be proud and humbled that the prestigious Nobel committee recognizes so early in our President the qualities of a peace-maker. It is in sharp contrast to the actions of the Bush administration which assumed its unilateral militaristic approach to everything and attacked without restraint killing hundreds of thousands of civiliians, wantonly. Instead of 'shock and awe' perhaps Obama can generate at least grudging respect and possibly unity and cooperation also. It would appear that Europe certainly hopes so.
9 years 3 months ago
I respect your right to have your opinion about keeping abortion legal but this opinion is contrary to that of America Magazine, the Jesuits and the Catholic Church.
May you have peace.


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