President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
President Barack Obama
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Staff Writer
President Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize last week is the latest chapter of his administration’s first year–or the symbol of what he has meant to people around the world in the last 18 months.
He joins previous Black winners including Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan.
As only the third sitting president to win the award–Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson–it’s a validation of Obama’s goal to improve America’s standing abroad. The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited this when they commended him for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
This was no clearer when he traveled to Germany in July 2008 during his campaign and an estimated crowd of 200,000 gathered to hear him speak. Abroad, he is hailed for simply having a different approach than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
But it’s also a reminder of what drove him to the White House–a message of hope and inspiration to not just African-Americans, but many in America and around the world.
The Committee recognized this when it said: “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future?
The announcement was met with a mixture of praise and criticism on both sides. Some questioned if the President had done enough to achieve peace with the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others, like former President and Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter, praised the award as sign of progress and a changing world-view of America.
“[It] speaks to the promise of President Obama’s message of hope,” said Tutu, who won the prize in 1984.
He was nominated on February 1, less than two weeks after being sworn-in as President. It explains why he, like many others, was surprised when he received the announcement.
A hallmark of the Obama Administration has been his approach toward foreign policy. In the eyes of experts, he has acted with more diplomacy and dialogue as opposed to President Bush’s unilateral approach that antagonized allies as much as it further alienated enemies.
He highlighted this in his reaction to reporters, calling the award “a call to all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”
Already he has sparked discussion on improving relations with the Western and Muslim words, working with Russia to reduce the nuclear arsenal of both countries and closing Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Winning the award does add more pressure to his own challenges of health care, fixing the economy and adding more troops to Afghanistan.
But for supporters, it’s validation of an individual who has inspired many to dream bigger and while the jury is out on the first eight months of his presidency, it’s clear that enough progress has been made to invigorate the world in addition to his country.