Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize winner

(Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)
(Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

In case you haven’t already heard, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. My initial reaction was one of skepticism. As you may know, I’m a big fan and supporter of our president. But with this, I thought it might be a little premature, and that there were probably people who might be more deserving.

[All of this is notwithstanding the fact that Barack actually had nothing to do with the process, not with nomination, nor with consideration, nor with being named winner. So for those who are ragging on him, you should probably know that your diatribe would probably be better directed at, if anyone, the committee that made the decision.]

But as I began thinking about it a little more, I became more okay with it. Here are my thoughts, which many have already voiced, most eloquently by Lizzo, and also here. Under Barack Obama, we have seen:

  • Efforts to improve international diplomacy: he opened diplomatic channels with Iran, North Korea, and Cuba, rather than simply saber-rattling. He’s aggressively pursued Arab-Israeli peace. And, as we saw at the UN summit last month, he is seeking and working toward a nuclear-free world.
  • A new international political climate: a new multilateralism, a new cooperation with the United Nations, a new respect for and desire to work with others. We can be pretty sure this was an in-your-face to George W. Bush’s unilateralism (at least during his first term). And I, at least, think the former is going to be slightly more effective than the latter.
  • The issue of climate change addressed: finally, finally, finally, the US is taking some much-needed action on facing up to this global challenge.

What he did do was recognize the somewhat ironic, and certainly difficult, position he inhabits as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the “commander in chief of a country that is responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people” and American allies. And he received the award with humility, grace and class, recognizing the incredible honor that had bestowed on him, accepting it to share with everyone who strives for “justice and dignity,” and describing the occasion as a “call to action” for all.

With the committee, I hope the Nobel Peace Prize spurs Barack to seeing through all that he has spoken; bringing to fruition all that we have only seen as potential; of setting the bar and expectations for his presidency high, and meeting those challenges.

P.S. As a fun side exercise, consider how many of the following people—all Nobel Peace Prize winners—you could write a paragraph about (or even a sentence): Martti Ahtisaari, Al Gore, Muhammad Yunus, Mohamed ElBaradei, Wangari Maathai, Shirin Ebadi, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Kim Dae-jung, John Hume, David Trimble, Jody Williams, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, José Ramos-Horta, Joseph Rotblat, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Elie Wiesel, Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, Alva Myrdal, Alfonso García Robles, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mother Teresa, Anwar al-Sadat, Menachem Begin, Amnesty International, Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan, Andrei Sakharov, Seán MacBride, Eisaku Sato, Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, Willy Brandt, Norman Borlaug, René Cassin, Martin Luther King Jr., Linus Pauling, Dag Hammarskjöld, Albert Lutuli, Philip Noel-Baker, Georges Pire, Lester Bowles Pearson, George C. Marshall, Albert Schweitzer, Léon Jouhaux, Ralph Bunche, Lord Boyd Orr, Emily Greene Balch, John R. Mott, Cordell Hull, Robert Cecil, Carlos Saavedra Lamas, Carl von Ossietzky, Arthur Henderson, Sir Norman Angell, Jane Addams, Nicholas Murray Butler, Nathan Söderblom, Frank B. Kellogg, Ferdinand Buisson, Ludwig Quidde, Aristide Briand, Gustav Stresemann, Sir Austen Chamberlain, Charles G. Dawes, Fridtjof Nansen, Hjalmar Branting, Christian Lange, Léon Bourgeois, Woodrow Wilson, Henri La Fontaine, Elihu Root, Tobias Asser, Alfred Fried, Auguste Beernaert, Paul Henri d’Estournelles de Constant, Klas Pontus Arnoldson, Fredrik Bajer, Ernesto Teodoro Moneta, Louis Renault, Theodore Roosevelt, Bertha von Suttner, Randal Cremer, Élie Ducommun, Albert Gobat, Henry Dunant, Frédéric Passy.


  1. Hey, Justin, followed you here from twitter…

    I just want to say that the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. Really good exhibits, lots of info on past winners and more. And it’s in Norway! 🙂

  2. That’s awesome–if and when I get to Norway (whenever that is!), I’ll definitely check it out!

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