Does Barack Obama Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

9 10 2009

I was really excited to hear who the Norwegian Nobel Committee would choose today to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Would it be Three Cups of Tea author and Afghanistan and Pakistan builder of schools for girls Greg Mortenson (see my post on Greg here)? Or Dr. Denis Mukwege, the Congolese gynecologist who has repaired the damage done to 21,000 gang raped women and given them hope? Both were incredibly deserving and could certainly put the $1.4 million prize money to good use helping women and girls.

President Obama at UN Security Council Mtg (Doug Mills, NY Times)

President Obama at UN Security Council Meeting in September 2009 (Doug Mills, NY Times)

I was as stunned as anyone to learn upon waking today that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee received 205 nominations and created a short list of between 5 and 20 nominees. A group of academics who are permanent advisers to the Nobel Institute examined these candidates, gave their input, and the committee made the final decision. They had this to say about why they awarded President Obama the prize:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

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. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had this to say about President Obama’s win:

We are entering an era of renewed multilateralism, a new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global effort. President Obama embodies the new spirit of dialogue and engagement on the world’s biggest problems: climate change, nuclear disarmament and a wide range of peace and security challenges.

There are many naysayers, though…mostly in the U.S….who ask what has he done to deserve this prestigious prize? After all, he’s only been president for 9 months. Go back even to the over two-year election period and you can see him already at work as a peacemaker. Some examples?

  • John McCain called him “that one” in an election debate and Obama turned the other cheek and did not react. He has been very gracious toward McCain and included him in many high-value decisions since he’s been president.
  • Hillary Clinton was snide and mocked Obama repeatedly during the election and Obama never responded in kind toward her. After her vitriol (and Bill’s) toward him, he had the grace to ask her to be his secretary of state.
  • Throughout all the Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright, and Acorn debaucles and Palin hate mongering rallies, Obama said repeatedly that he trusted the American people to see what was really important and not to get sidetracked or misled.

Not once did he let all of the ugliness directed at him cause him to act ugly in return. Many people saw him as weak and thought he surely would not win the election because he didn’t go on the attack, but the American people decided they wanted someone who was peaceful, positive, and projected a quiet calm.

Besides how he conducted himself during the campaign, President Obama, in just a few short months has already done a lot to promote peace. A few of his efforts include:

  • A commitment to nuclear disarmament even in the face of North Korea’s threats and launching missiles
  • Meeting with President Dmitri Medvedev to begin repairing relations with Russia
  • Meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan to improve relations between their countries
  • Giving a major speech aimed at the Muslim world in Cairo where he spoke of a fresh start and a new relationship based on mutual respect and understanding
  • Working to restart peace talks by meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine

Obama responding to Nobel Peace Prize win - Stephen Crowley - NYTimesPresident Obama’s spoke this morning about this honor; here are some of his remarks:

To be honest, 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 — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I’ve said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won’t all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

President Obama will go to Oslo, Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. He has announced that he will donate the prize money to charity.

Kenyan Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said:

Many people are waiting for miracles, when miracles have already happened. The getting of the senator into the Senate, the way he conducted his campaign, the way he won… In America it may not look as big a thing as it was to the rest of the world, the hope and the aspiration it provides for the rest of the world.

Think back to election night and inauguration day. Barack Obama…even before he became president…lifted not only the American people, but people all over the world. He gave them hope, he made them believe again in decency, respectfulness, dignity, honor, honesty, openness, civility, inclusiveness, and the power of trusting and communicating with people all over the world. To me, these are the hallmarks of what creating peace is all about.

Alfred Nobel stated in his will that he wanted the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to…

the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

Does Barack Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? For me…and the committee upholding Alfred Nobel’s wishes…the answer is YES, he does. I cannot think of a single other person who is more the active embodiment of what Alfred Nobel sought in a peacemaker worthy of this award. Congratulations, President Obama and thank you for your example and your peaceful tone as a man and as our president.

Here’s Geir Lundestad, Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, speaking to senior editor Simon Frantz about why President Obama was chosen for this high honor.

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Using the Lost 2016 Olympics Bid to Sow Hatred in America

3 10 2009

Ha ha ha! We didn’t get the bid for the 2016 Olympics. What a loser that President Obama is. That’s what we’re hearing from many conservatives today. Here are some actual statements made today with derisive gleefulness:

  • Rush Limbaugh – “Our president, Barack Hussein Obama, has been running around the world for nine months telling everybody how much our country sucks…. Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place?…Obama demeaned the office of the presidency, going on this sales pitch….He doesn’t understand how delighted the world is to make him look foolish in order to take a swipe at our country. We’ve got a two-year-old manchild with a Mars-sized ego, which today crashed and burned.”
  • The Drudge Report – “THE EGO HAS LANDED. WORLD REJECTS OBAMA: CHICAGO OUT IN FIRST ROUND”
  • The National Review Online – “Wow, what an embarrassment for Obama. If he can’t work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?”
  • Michelle Malkin – “Goodbye, ‘Yes We Can.’ Hello, ‘No, You Can’t.’ Like Icarus, President Obama’s giddy ego flight has ended with melted wax and fallen wings.”

This is downright disturbing to see Americans gloating because the U.S. lost the bid for the 2016 Olympics and laughing out loud at President Obama because of it. Lately there have been a lot of outrageous, mean-spirited, derogatory, and frankly anti-American statements made that indicate the speakers of those words hope our country and President Obama fail; Limbaugh even outright said so.

If you are one of the people laughing at our president and hoping our country fails, do you call yourself religious? Do you claim moral authority? Are you a member of the party whose election campaign motto was “Country First”?  If so, I ask where is your decency, your Christ-like spirit, and your caring for and loving fellow Americans including BLACK ones like our president? When you ask the question What would Jesus do? do you seriously think he would behave this way?

Instead of gleeful derision, why not celebrate with Rio de Janeiro on their win today? Why not be grateful for a president who made a huge personal effort and sees this as an opportunity to reestablish relations with people all over the world after they were so damaged by the previous president? Why not be thankful to all the people who spent countless hours putting together the bid for Chicago to host the Olympics? Wouldn’t all that be more Christian, more decent, more American?

I’m really tired of certain factions…incited and egged on by certain media personalities…doing everything they can to tear down our country. Consider the source of your information….it is from opportunists who don’t care about our country and the people in it. These opportunists make a lot of money being outrageous and hateful. They worship the almighty dollar.

Instead of what we saw today, I’d like to see glee being shown when people extend kindness, lift each other up, care for one another, and contribute to the good in the world. 13th century Persian poet Rumi says it so well:

Tender words we spoke to one another are sealed in the secret vaults of heaven. One day like rain, they will fall to earth and grow green all over the world.

What words are you saying? Are they kind? Encouraging? Caring? Loving? Will they fall to the earth and grow green all over the world or scorch the earth with dissension and hatred?

UPDATE 10/5/09: Paul Krugman has an excellent New York Times Op-Ed on this entitled “The Politics of Spite,” which was published 10/4.





Stand By Me

30 04 2009

Who do you stand by? Today. Right now. A child? Spouse or significant other? Best friend?  Maybe yourself? Is that about it? Hmmm. Too busy, too frazzled, or just don’t give a damn to stand by anyone else? Do you even think about others outside your primary relationships? Of course you do…right?

You are like a cell in the total of the human(ity) body. For this every-human-on-the-planet body to be healthy and functioning, each cell needs to be healthy. Think those women being children and women being raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo don’t affect your life? You have a deadly cancer…good luck. Think Chinese women being forced to abort 9-month-old fetuses to comply with the one-child law doesn’t affect you? You lost your sight…how does that feel?

globe-in-hands-smallerEspecially in the U.S. we have had this notion that we are independent and not connected to the rest of the world…that global body. Look what happened with the economic crisis here…it brought down economies around the world. Our greed, self-centeredness, and narcissim infected others and caused the global body harm.

Now look at the power of what one person can do. President Obama has such a positive, calm, comforting, reassuring, thoughtful, and attentive demeanor and he is lifting us all up. Our global cells are starting to hum and vibrate with hope again.

We are all interconnected. It starts with one person…and then another…and then another…and then another… Who do you stand by? Who do you stand with? Who do you connect with? The answer to that last question? EVERYONE.

 We all need each other. Stand by me. I stand by you.

 From the award-winning documentary “Playing for Change: Peace Through Music”…enjoy!





Say What You Need to Say

9 02 2009

John Mayer’s “Say” won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards tonight. The song is featured in the movie “The Bucket List,” and in it he sings “Say what you need to say…even if your hands are shakin’ and your faith is broken, even as the eyes are closin’, do it with a heart wide open…say what you need to say.”

Is there something you need to say to someone? Join the wave of courage, authenticity and integrity, which begins now with the inauguration of President Obama, the end of the George Bush monarchy, and the exposure of Wall Street fat cats and others who have built a house of cards at our expense.

Authenticity is about saying what you need to say even when it is hard to do. It is about President Obama telling us that the road to healing our nation is going to be rocky and we will all have to make sacrifices. It is about speaking out about torture and child abuse even when people don’t want to think those things exist in the world and don’t want to hear about them. It is about telling a troubled family member their actions are hurtful and yet you are there to help.

I think a lot about women and children all over the world who live in fear, who are physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, who are refugees, who are treated as property and/or slaves, who are forced into marriages with men they don’t love, who are hungry, who have no money or means to support themselves, who have AIDS, and who have no hope for a better future.

Living in such conditions and just trying to survive, do they even think about life being precious, being understood, feeling a connection with others, being comforted, and treating others with integrity and love? How do we help people who have been so afflicted to rise above the trauma of the affliction and begin to trust, love, and connect with others?

The thing is that we don’t have to go to Darfur or the Congo or Somalia or any number of other places to find women and children who are suffering. Look around. Perhaps you have or know a child who is suffering, or a cousin, a friend, a parent, an acquaintance. Maybe you don’t know they are suffering, but you sense that something is wrong. These could be women or children who live with the shame of having been sexually abused, who live in poverty, who live in physically violent homes, or who are so desperate that they are considering committing suicide.

What do you need to say? Are you holding something back?  Reach out to that person. Be courageous. Step up. Perhaps what you have to say could make a difference in someone else’s life and could even save their life. Say what you need to say.

Here’s John Mayer singing the song as featured in “The Bucket List.”





Remembering the Sacrifices of Many on Veterans Day

11 11 2008

Section 60 is where Iraq and Afghanistan casualties are buried in Arlington Cemetery. The “Section 60” documentary on HBO is a moving reminder that war comes with a huge cost. This special takes a quiet look at mothers, wives, children, and others who come to visit the graves of their deceased family members. CLICK HERE to keep reading





Rachel Maddow and Barack Obama

30 10 2008

I watched Dr. (and Rhodes Scholar) Rachel Maddow interview Harvard Law Review President Barack Obama tonight on her show. This was two highly intelligent, engaging, and informed intellectuals going head to head. There has been (by the McCain campaign) so much emphasis put on Obama being someone who can give a good speech and draw crowds. It’s easy to forget that Obama is also a tremendous scholar. CLICK HERE to keep reading





Obamamercial

29 10 2008

What did you think? Love it? Lukewarm? Didn’t like it at all? Here’s what I think:

  • It was incredibly well-executed. It was directed by Davis Guggenheim, the director and executive producer of former Vice President Al Gore’s global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and producer and director of the HBO series “Deadwood.” Guggenheim also directed Obama’s convention video.
  • It was heart-felt, moving, and according to many Twitter posts, had lots of people in tears.
  • It showed ordinary Americans with big problems due to the downturn of the economy, lack of health care, and more. Those people are everyman. He drove it home to us…made it personal.
  • It was totally positive. It was all about what Obama could do for America, not what’s wrong with America.
  • John McCain or Sarah Palin were never mentioned. Again, the focus was on the positive and not bashing the other guy (or gal).
  • Obama came across as presidential. He was commanding yet caring, knowledgeable and intelligent, confident yet accessible.
  • Obama said in this video “You can trust me. I understand you. I want to help you. I care about you.”
  • Bravo! Well done!

If you didn’t see it or want to watch it again, you can watch it here. Enjoy!





Barack Obama: Inclusiveness in a Time of Divisiveness

17 10 2008

The endorsements for Obama by typically Republican newspapers, columnists, and media speak of how Obama brings inclusiveness when our divided country desperately needs it. Here are a few excerpts from endorsements for Obama by CONSERVATIVE newspapers and columnists:

  • Chicago Tribune – “We know first-hand that Obama seeks out and listens carefully and respectfully to people who disagree with him. He builds consensus. He has risen with his honor, grace and civility intact. He has the intelligence to understand the grave economic and national security risks that face us, to listen to good advice and make careful decisions.”
  • Washington Post – “Mr. Obama is a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building. But Mr. Obama’s temperament is unlike anything we’ve seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.”
  • Seattle Times – “At a time of huge challenge, the candidate with the intelligence, temperament and judgment to lead our nation to a better place is Sen. Barack Obama.”
  • Christopher Buckley, who resigned from the National Review (which his father started) over his endorsement of Obama – ” Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for. So, I wish him all the best. We are all in this together. Necessity is the mother of bipartisanship.”
  • Michael Smerconish, Philadelphia radio host – “He’s better suited to be a unifier.”

These are some of the typical Republican mouthpieces that are crossing party lines to endorse Barack Obama because they see him as the man who can help the entire country rise out of the major crises we are facing now.

The electrifying keynote speech that Obama gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which introduced him on the national stage to most people, rings even more true today to what our country needs. In part, he said:

“It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

He goes on to say that “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

The polls reflect that people are tired of the divisiveness that Palin and McCain tout at their rallies and in their inflammatory ads and campaign letters and calls. Their inciting near-riots and mob lynches at rallies – particularly Palin – are reprehensible, irresponsible, and downright dangerous. This talk of Obama as being “not one of us” is racist, divisive, and exclusionary. Palin even questions the loyalty of some Americans and praises certain areas of the country for being more patriotic.

Our country will be well served by a president who truly puts country first, rises above what separates us, looks for ways to connect us, and invites us all to join him to make this a better country. Barack Obama is the one we’ve been waiting for…the one we need to lead us and unite us.





Barack Obama – Calm, Steady, Presidential

12 10 2008

The world is in the midst of an enormous financial crisis. 401ks, life savings, jobs, banks, and businesses are vanishing before our eyes. Barack Obama is the calm, steady hand we need to lead our country out of a near-depression, a 10-billion-dollar-a-month war in Iraq, and a 10+ trillion dollar national deficit.

Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic and columnist for the UK’s Sunday Times has written a brilliant article for today’s Times about Obama’s calm and how he does not panic.

I am in awe of Obama. His challengers try and provoke him and he does not take the bait. McCain runs negative ads against him and Obama says he trusts the American people…that they are smart enough to see through all that. McCain calls him “THAT ONE” in the debate and Obama just smiles and lets it roll off his back. Obama just does not get ruffled.

His opponents try and paint him as too cool or elite. It’s been so long since we’ve had a calm, intelligent, and thoughtful president that the Republicans make that sound scary.

Republicans, the fear-mongering and swift boating just won’t work against Obama. He’s just too smart for you. He’s assembled a brilliant team of people who are just as steady and calm as he is. They are in it to win and they will win.

23 days. Calm. Steady. Stay the course. Focus on the issues. Let McCain and Palin flail in desperation. I can’t wait to have an intelligent, methodical, mature, and honest president. President Obama. Just who our country needs.





Michelle Obama – The First Female President?

9 10 2008

After Barack Obama is President for eight years, what about Michelle being President? She has the resume: Princeton University and Harvard Law School graduate, worked for a law firm, on the staff of the Mayor of Chicago, and for the University of Chicago and University of Chicago Hospitals. She will have had 8 years of experience as First Lady and I’m sure Michelle will make her mark by doing things that make a positive difference for Americans.

Besides the fact that Michelle is incredibly intelligent, she sets the right tone. She is personable, caring, engaging, knowledgeable, inclusive, never blaming, commanding, and likeable. She is a mother who puts her children’s needs first and makes sure that she and her husband spend maximum time with them and make it all about them when they do. She is a loving and supportive wife, suspending her own work to help her husband campaign and taking delight when she sees him.

Those are all wonderful qualities, but why would they make her a good President? She is trustworthy. She knows what is important and she is passionate about what is important – her children, her husband, and her country. She has not only the brains, but exercises good judgment in how she conducts her life and interacts with others.

I have never heard Michelle say that she has any political aspirations, but I have to think that she would be fantastic at it. I saw her last night being interviewed on Larry King and on The Daily Show and the woman is thoughtful, gracious, brilliant, and incredibly engaging. She is a woman who I and other women want to emulate. She inspires. She is a definite asset to Barack, but she is also in her own right (as Larry King called her) EXTRAORDINARY.

So I say Michelle Obama for President in 2016!