Nobel Peace Prize slightly tarnished

Reaction to American President Barack Obama’s recent Nobel Peace Prize award was as varied and controversial as the list of past recipients itself.

Reaction to American President Barack Obama’s recent Nobel Peace Prize award was as varied and controversial as the list of past recipients itself.

Democrats naturally basked in the glow of their party’s brightest star, but Republican national chairman Michael Steele ridiculed Obama’s award as the “Prize for Awesomeness.”

“It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights,” added Steele.

In the company of past winners such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Lech Walesa and Mother Teresa, it’s fair to ask what has Obama actually done to merit this prize?

He’s certainly a gifted statesman and orator, who has inspired people around the globe with a renewed sense of hope for the future. But is talk of change enough?

Obama was sworn in as President merely two weeks prior to the award’s nomination deadline. He’s only been in office for nine short months.

Some pundits have opined that he deserves the award in an “aspirational context.”

As Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the 1990s, once proudly admitted, “The prize . . . is not only for past achievement. . . . The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account (because) . . . Nobel wanted the prize to have political effects. Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

But the current committee is adamant that this is not an aspirational award. Thorbjorn Jagland, former prime minister of Norway and chair of this year’s committee, insists it’s for work Obama has already accomplished, for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.”

“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year,” Jagland said, who credited Obama with creating “a new climate in international politics” whereby “multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position” in world affairs.

It all sounds so compelling, until you give your head a good shake.

What has he really contributed to world peace other than a few inspirational speeches?

Martin Luther King, Jr., arguably the greatest American orator of the 20th century, won the peace prize in 1964 for his marches, not his speeches, for his courageous acts throughout the American south, defying police batons, attack dogs, water canons, and assassins. He was a global harbinger of peace, the driving force that ended segregation.

Mahatma Ghandi, the Indian national leader who embodies the strongest symbol of non-violent activism in the 20th century, was nominated for the peace prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and finally, a few days before he was murdered in January 1948.

King and Ghandi deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama does not – at least, not yet.

The only other two sitting presidents to win this award did so on the heels of significant international accomplishments.

Theodore Roosevelt brokered a peace deal to end to the Russo-Japanese war, and Woodrow Wilson spearheaded the creation of the League of Nations, the precursor to our modern United Nations.

Given some time, perhaps Obama would likewise have merited the prize outright, based on real achievements his administration now only aspires to, like confronting Iran and North Korea, shoring up Afghanistan’s fledgling democracy, or reducing global terrorism and nuclear weapons.

Columnist for the Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach, summed it up best: “And this is where the real guilt of the Nobel committee lies. They have conveyed the mistaken message that what a man or woman says is as important as what they do. And while we need eloquent words to make us march, until those feet start astompin’, the speeches remain empty rhetoric.”

And the venerable Nobel Peace Prize remains ever-so-slightly more tarnished.

Vesna Higham is a local freelance writer.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

Come play at Medicine River Wildlife Centre

Grand opening of new playground

Red Deer group looking to keep roads safe for cyclists

A Red Deer cycling group is concerned about road safety after multiple… Continue reading

Smoke and pets do not mix

Take care of your pets during the smoky weather

WATCH: Raising money for kids at the Gord Bamford Charity Golf Classic

Former NHL players, Olympians, pro rodeo circuit members and musicians teed off… Continue reading

Canadian soccer captain Christine Sinclair continues to lead fight against MS

TORONTO — Christine Sinclair continues to have an impact on and off… Continue reading

In Franklin’s anthems, women heard an empowering message

NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin never saw herself as a feminist heroine.… Continue reading

Happy birthday Boler: 100s of cute campers in Winnipeg for anniversary gathering

WINNIPEG — Angela Durand sits outside her camper which is decorated to… Continue reading

Merkel, Putin share a headache: Donald Trump

FRANKFURT — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will… Continue reading

Tim Hortons says its China expansion will include menu with congee, matcha

TORONTO — The president of Tim Hortons says a plan to conquer… Continue reading

Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

OTTAWA — U.S. President Donald Trump is suggesting Canada has deliberately been… Continue reading

Photographer files complaint with police after alleged assault while on the job

TORONTO — A Toronto newspaper photographer said he opted to file a… Continue reading

Annual inflation rate jumped to 3.0% in July, highest reading since 2011

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says higher gasoline prices helped push the country’s… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month