Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

Christopher Hook

The Nobel Prize committee has received an immense amount of flack for its decision to award President Barack Obama its most prestigious honor. But I will stand with Obama and say he deserves this award.

His entire presidential campaign calling for “Hope” and “Change” lit up a world needing a renewal of positive American leadership. Bush-era policies had an enormous negative impact on the cause for global peace. Obama entered the race with the resonant message that America is better than its last eight years, and can once again be an agent for positive change. The world responded. Huge crowds of Europeans met Obama with deafening cheers as he toured the continent, and Kenya declared a national holiday on the date of his inauguration. Obama’s election helped strip “W” and the last eight years from America’s image. Unity in the world after Jan. 20 was unprecedented as Obama’s call for peace and unity echoed loudly in all parts of the globe.

President Obama’s election was symbolic because we, the American people, elected a half-black Muslim’s son with the middle name “Hussein” to our highest office. In doing this, we took a huge stride in the cause for tolerance and justice. I imagine people in all parts of the globe found this inspiring – that a nation elected a president who 50 years ago would have had to use segregated bathrooms, and who 150 years ago might have served as a slave to a plantation owner. I’m sure minorities and the politically marginalized in China or Iran saw this as a call to action against oppressive leadership. Hence, there were many effective peaceful demonstrations in these countries last summer.

After the election, Obama cemented the United States’ commitment to international diplomacy. We joined the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. We committed to six-party talks with North Korea on its missile program. Obama continues to negotiate weapons of mass destruction reduction with Russia. He made two major speeches to the international community – one in Cairo and one to the UN General Assembly – saying, essentially, that we are ready to once again be your friends. He committed America to stop torturing terror suspects, to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison and to begin pulling soldiers out of Iraq.

I do have concerns about the future. The shutdown of Guantanamo Bay may exceed its timetable. The Afghanistan question still needs to be resolved. If Obama decides to send more troops there, is this reflective of a leader focused on peace? And what of the Israel-Palestine conflict? These are the battles that will prove our president’s mettle as he moves into the second year of his presidency. My sense is, however, that all of these, save for the Afghanistan conflict, are questions about what is realistic in a very tough political climate. And this is where the awarding of the Nobel Prize may help our president. I hope it will re-inspire his drive to do good things for the causes of peace and justice even in the face of the American political situation. As concerned citizens, let’s stop getting upset over this; it’s only an award. What we can do is support him in living up to its legacy.

Christopher Hook is a junior international relations and French major and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.