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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Critics of Peace Prize bash president unfairly

The Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee's October 9 announcement that Barack Obama won the 2009 Peace Prize came as a shock to most.

When Thørbjorn Jagland, Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, announced the 2009 winner, several audience members audibly gasped.

Perhaps the person most shocked was Obama himself. The president appeared humble and gracious when he said ""I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize.""

Obama did not apply for this honor, lobby, fight or even ask politely for it. Yet somehow this decision by a committee of five Norwegians has angered more than just the president's usual critics.Obama is facing flak from conservatives and liberals alike, perhaps even more from the left.

If any recent Euro-centric decision merits vilification of Obama, blame him for losing us the Olympics. He actually visited the Olympic committee and lobbied for the summer games in Chicago. The Nobel decision came from five Norwegians independent of his influence.

As it is every year, it's likely that other candidates were equally deserving of the prize. But how did that translate to Obama bashing? Surprised pride would be a more appropriate reaction. The president deserves criticism for more important events than winning a medal by no choosing of his own.

For the average person, naming any of the 2009 Nobel nominees would be difficult. Few, if any people have had as great an effect as President Obama on the world in the last year.

The charge that Obama has done nothing to make the world a more peaceful place is simply false.

Obama's first official action as president was signing an order to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. That same day, he formally banned torture and required that the Army field manual be used as the guide for terrorism interrogations.

He recently scrapped the previous president's plan to construct a missile defense system in eastern Poland and the Czech Republic, easing tensions with Russia who had bitterly opposed the plan.

Obama has traveled abroad far more than any president this early in his presidency and has worked tirelessly to reset and renew American foreign relations.

In his explanation of the committee's decision, Jagland said, ""Obama has, as President, created a new international climate,"" in which ""multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position.""

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President Obama has brought change to the United States and the way we interact with the rest of the world.

From shaking hands with Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas, to calling for reduction of nuclear arms internationally, to taking a fair yet safe stance with Iran, Obama has changed the global atmosphere. The world is safer with President Obama at the helm, moreso than it could be with nearly any other individual.

It's easy to say Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize because he is successfully not George W. Bush. But to pretend he has done nothing on the international stage is absurd.

Obama's global influence undoubtedly played into the Nobel committee's decision. His international relations efforts, though limited so far, have had and will have immeasurable impact on the globe. Obama sits in the most powerful seat in international politics.

He did not get to the pinnacle of power easily, however. Less than a decade ago, our current president was a no-name state senator who taught law and dabbled in writing. He grew up with a single mother who sometimes resorted to food stamps to feed her two children. Obama did not waltz into Norway and steal this shiny medal from all the starving activists of the world. He has helped make the entire world more peaceful after rising from remarkably humble means. Obama's story is a testament to the efforts of all individuals trying to improve the world one person at a time.

Most importantly, this award is, as Obama calls it, ""a call to action."" We must continue the trend toward a more peaceful world and not fall backward.

We must share pride in that duty and work together as a people. Obama is the first to say this Nobel is not for him or any one person. Instead, he said, ""This award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity.""

As he frequently spouts, he cannot effect change by himself. He understands we are all in this together. No matter how many executive orders he signs, no matter how many awkward diplomatic photos are snapped, no matter how many negotiations he begins, it takes more than one person to make the world more peaceful.

""I know these challenges can be met, so long as it's recognized they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.""

As Americans, we should be proud our president won the Nobel Peace Prize, and realize the magnitude of such an event. Obama is only the third sitting president and fourth in history to receive this honor. America is returning to its place as a ""city upon a hill,"" to continue the sappy sentimentalism. Finally, we're going about it the right way.

Jamie Stark is a sophomore intending to major in journalism and political science. Please send responses to 

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