2009 Blog Posts Politics and Leadership

President Barack Hussein Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize: The World Has Called Us Out

Lightening bolts are beautiful, as long as you are not standing at, or near, their points of impact. I am moved to make the observation in response to President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because his selection has hit the US populace like a huge, startling, bolt of lightening.

Obama is apparently a good egg. He has high hopes, and he is off to a relatively good start. He is a gifted speaker, and positively eloquent when he takes off on an inspired riff about some positively wonderful ideal. But we are still getting used to him as president. We are still, as it were, taking his measure, watching, questioning, comparing, critiquing. That’s what we do with new presidents.

But Barack Hussein Obama is vastly different from each of his predecessors in the oval office. As a result, it is taking us longer to adjust to his being in office than is normally the case. However much we seek to evade, deny, and move beyond, our unavoidable reality is that his race is largely responsible for the unusual complexity of the process of getting everyone comfortable with him as the nation’s preeminent leader. This is largely due to the fact that Obama’s election means that from this time forward everything involving race in the United States will be different. Thus, we are engaged in major social and psychological transformations. The Nobel Peace Price Committee has vastly complicated the process.

The key point to be understood is that Barack Obama is a new experience every day of the week for every one of us. Given that, if we had our druthers, we would have preferred to have had more time to get used to him before having to make the adjustment to seeing, and relating to, him as one of the world’s most highly regarded leaders. Up until now, this nation’s citizens have largely concentrated on what his election means to us. But his selection for the Nobel Peace Prize redefines our paradigm.

If nothing else, President Obama’s being honored in such an undeniably auspicious manner by prestigious foreigners is forcing us to acknowledge that he is as important to the rest of the world as he is to us. Moreover, we are also being forced to acknowledge that he is more honored, and more widely respected and accepted in much of the rest of the world, than he is here in the United States by his own countrymen and women.

Maybe most important, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has essentially called out the people of this nation regarding the matter of war. Needless to say, it is unseemly indeed for a recipient of the “peace prize” to be vigorously pursuing two wars. One might also reasonably argue that it is equally unseemly for the people led by a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to be clamoring, as far too many of us are, for more military spending, more troops for combat, and more interminable killing on foreign battlefields.

Having been called out in a marvelously diplomatic manner regarding our outsized propensity to engage in bloody imperial episodes of the sort currently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, my hope is that we will respond by forging peace in each setting as soon as possible. Only by doing so, will we justify the honor recently bestowed on the gentleman we elected to lead our government, and thereby ratify our long deferred dreams and aspirations for peaceful coexistence. In any event, however the situation develops, I should like to note that we are already deeply indebted to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for btilliantly nudging us in the proper direction.

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Robert Terrell

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