Like most of the country, I awoke to the shocking news of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to President Obama. Like the reporters sitting in Oslo this morning at the announcement, I also gasped. As proud as I am to have any of our Presidents recognized by the world with a distinguished award I’m still left scratching my head and saying, “What the hell?”
For an award that has been given to people who have sacrificed and suffered so much for the cause of world peace and a better humanity – US Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964); Holocaust survivor and acclaimed writer Elie Wiesel (1986); Doctors Without Borders (1999); Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi (1991); Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov (1975), Catholic Missionary, Mother Theresa (1979) and many more, I find the reasoning behind this year’s award by the Nobel Selection Committee to be completely hollow.
Some will interpret my words as just a partisan shot – they aren’t. When you compare the impressive body of work of the previous award winners to this year’s Award winner, the comparable list of accomplishments is remarkably shallow.
For as ground-breaking as the election of Barack Obama may be for the US and the world, it is no substitute for a record of achievement, and in the early days of this Administration is still very much undefined and undistinguished. You can be a new face on the world stage and deliver magnificent speeches in global locales but as Saturday Night Live mercilessly pilloried last week, nothing speaks louder than accomplishment.
Changing the tone of things as the Nobel Committee cited in its Award announcement is certainly important but it is not something that merits this prize – the world’s most distinguished proclamation of accomplishment for peacemaking. If changing the tone of things is the new metric to be a Nobel Laureate, I am fairly confident that the designers on the Home & Garden Channel will be next year’s award winners. They seem to change the tone of things on a daily basis with some remodeling, a splash of paint and amazing landscaping.
There were truly more deserving individuals than President Obama. Two of which include Bono of U2, for his tireless crusade to retire the debts of impoverished nations, and former President Bill Clinton for his Clinton Global Initiative that brings public and private sectors together to work on the world’s most pressing problems. These two people and many others have established impressive records of achievement and have actually changed the tone of things for years.
This year’s award winner has only just begun his world stage journey. Seeing him get this Award I can’t help but feel this is like giving a Gold Medal to an athlete just for showing up for the Olympic Games. As the world knows to get that Gold Medal you have to compete at the absolute top level and win, but in this year’s case the Nobel Committee decided to just hand it out to the new guy. That by itself diminishes the value and distinction of this Award and the Nobel Committee blew it.
I have no doubt that with time and years of accomplishment this President (with his particular skill set) could one day earn a Nobel honor, but this was just not his time. His challenge now (on top of all the others already overflowing in his overstuffed In-box) is to live up to the achievements of his Nobel predecessors. No pressure Mr. President, but until he does that, this Award like the judgment of the Nobel Committee is extremely hollow.