Nine months into his first term as President of the United States, Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Nine months to a president is similar to fifteen minutes a fame given to ordinary folks who manage for a brief time to break through the clutter of the daily ho-hum by doing something that catches the imagination of the public at large. Unrelenting attacks on his person and presidency aside, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is a clear indication that Barack Obama has captured the imagination of the world at large. And that is a good thing.
Every great leap forward in the advancement of civilization says more about the will of the people than it does about the brilliance of leaders. Great leaders come to the fore only when the people are ready for them. So it is with Barack Obama. He is the right man for the right time. Although he has yet to prove or disprove a claim to greatness, the stage is set for him to succeed because the people wish to make it so. They wish to make it so not because they are blind followers or wishful thinkers but because they are ready to accept the ideals he represents and the leadership he offers.
Cynics abound, as they always do. Their voices tower over voices of reason, as they often do. They gather in the weak-kneed and shallow thinkers with ease. But as the world witnessed after the Iranian election, even the Royal Guard could not silence the Iranian people’s dissent when it comes to the cynical rhetoric of Achmed Ahmadinejad. Even the media fantasy with the power of cynical pundits in the US could not prevent the president’s poll numbers from rising while the Republicans in congress have sunk to an all time low of 9%.
Even as this piece is being written, pundits are playing up cynical responses to today’s awarding of the Nobel Prize to President Obama. Predictably criticism has come from enemies of the United States: the leader of the Taliban mocks the prize as does the head of the RNC, Michael Steele and of course the hater of all things Obama, Rush Limbaugh. By their reasoning, if it too soon in his term to judge the President’s effectiveness, then is it no also too soon to judge his failures, something the cynics have declared since January 21, 2009?
What is it the Nobel committee has seen that the cynics and pundits have not?
“Only 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.” Of special note was Obama’s vision of a world freed from nuclear weapons, a hallmark of his campaign statements
Perhaps Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, best captured the thinking of the committee in her statement: “In a very short time, he has succeeded in shifting the tone worldwide towards dialogue. I believe we should all support him to make world peace more possible. There is still much left to do, but a window of possibility has been opened. His call for a world free of nuclear weapons is a goal we all should try to make reality in the coming years. Another warm congratulations for this grand award. Certainly it will encourage the American president, but also us all to help him.”
This award is awarded in hope. It is awarded for the eloquent expression of a better world. It is awarded for a world the people can bring about by their own will to affirm the hope of the future rather than the cynicism of the past.