President Barack Obama yesterday was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, after only seven months in office and under a cloud of skepticism from millions of citizens around the globe. The Norwegian Nobel Committee presented Obama with the prestigious honor for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
The U.S. president was “surprised and deeply humbled,” and accepted the award as a “call to action for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.” Mr. Obama is the third U.S. president to receive the Nobel Peace Prize while in office, behind Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, based in Oslo, Norway, received 205 laureate nominations this year before the February 1 deadline, just 12 days after Obama was sworn into office. Nominations are made by various members of national assemblies and governments, university professors and former Nobel Peace Prize winners.
In accepting the prize, President Obama was quick to temper any criticism by distancing himself from past winners, also saying “he does not view the award as recognition of his own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of leadership.”
Does Obama deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize? That question can be debated either way. The prize however, is not always given for work accomplished, but for what can be. Mr. Obama understands this notion and will surely use this sentiment to promote peace across the globe. The real issue is how will winning this award affect President Obama’s decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq?
We must remember not too long ago that America elected the first African-American president, a feat not many people thought possible in today’s generation. Mr. Obama provided hope to a nation that was deeply divided and facing an uncertain future both economically and politically.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee sees that same hope in President Barack Obama. It’s not what he has done, but what he represents so that one day it may manifest itself into reality.