Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nobel Laureate Barack Hussein Obama

President Obama is a Super Star not simply because he sits in the most powerful office in the world. There have been many US Presidents before him who have been as powerful as he is because the post of the US President carries with it all that is necessary to make anyone who makes it to the Oval Office the most powerful man in the contemporary world. None of his predecessors in the last few decades can be called a Super Star. President Obama became a Super Star by making his way to the Oval Office in the quickest possible time against odds that everybody thought were insurmountable of which his color was perhaps one that few thought he would be able to overcome. His ability, conviction and personality have combined to create that aura on which the status of a super star is built. A man like Obama would easily have become a Super Star in a variety of other professions for he has that natural endowment that makes a man a Super Star in any branch of work he chooses to work.

Yet, when the Nobel Peace Committee announced that he is their choice for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, everybody was surprised; even the recipient himself. In acknowledging the honour, President Obama said that he did not feel that he deserves to be in the company of so many “transformative figures who have been honoured by the prize.” The news was “stunning” to everyone even though President Obama is seen for all the right reasons as a President who came to office with the promise of changing the world from conflict; disaster; unilateralism and militarism of the Bush era to an era of peace through diplomacy, cooperation and multilateralism. The Nobel Peace Prize committee, aware that the award of the prize to Obama so early in his tenure would surprise everybody, gave an explanation on why it decided to award Obama the prize. The Committee’s Chairman Thorbjoern Jagaland said: “He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate...Some people say, and I understand it, isn’t it premature? Too early? Well, I’d say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now. It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us.”

The surprise is nevertheless a very pleasant one for the world who have supported Obama all throughout his epic struggle to become the US President because he could save the world from destruction. French President Sarkozy articulated the sentiments of the rest of the world when he said the award has returned America to the hearts of the people of the world. In July, the prestigious Pew Global Attitude fund had released a report conducted in 25 countries by interviewing 27,000 people that showed that there was a double digit boost in US image abroad after President Obama took office after it had plunged across the world under President Bush. The Pew Global Report underscores the fact that President Sarkozy’s view did not emerge from his personal admiration of the US President. As the world reacts in the days ahead, there is bound to be more excitement for the honour to President Obama.

The Nobel Peace Committee in the past has awarded politicians in high offices the peace prize to acknowledge and encourage their peace initiatives. In 1971, it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chancellor Willie Brandt for his initiative to reach out to the communists in East Germany under “Otspolitik”. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was given the Prize in 1990 for his “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” policies through which he sought to release the East European countries from control by the Kremlin. President Obama’s award could be seen in that context; the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s belief that by giving him the Prize, they could build support and confidence in Americans and the rest of the world for his initiatives to rebuild the bridges with the Muslim world, particularly in restarting the stalled Palestine Peace; overtures to Iran using diplomacy; and his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms worldwide again using diplomacy and negotiations.

Strangely but not surprisingly some Americans have not expressed happiness that their President has been honoured. Such expressions have followed political lines. Leading the negative reaction has been the Chairman of the Republican Party Michael Steel who said that President Obama has been given the Prize based on his “star power’. He did not think that President Obama deserved the Prize based on his accomplishments. He encouraged Americans to ask themselves what President Obama has really achieved. Conservative elements in the US who were stunned by Obama’s victory in the Presidential election are now gathering their act against President and his administration. Eight months of his administration has offered a lot of promises but has not done much yet either for the Americans waiting desperately for their economic situation to improve or looking impatiently at the world for peace and return of US soldiers home where instead, President Obama is considering seriously to send more troops to Afghanistan, where to date 800 US soldiers have died. Only last month, the conservatives organized rallies against the President to stop him from speaking to school children because they claimed he was trying to motivate them towards his liberal agenda. In the nation’s capital this month, thousands of people marched in opposition to his efforts in Afghanistan; during which demonstrators carried placard showing against the picture of Martin Luther King the word “dream” and against President Obama’s picture, the word “nightmare”. Conservative newspapers in the US like the Wall Street Journal and abroad have expressed “bemusement” and thought the prize has “embarrassed” Obama and diminished the credibility of the Prize.

The award of the Prize to Obama is thus not good news to the conservative opponents of President Obama. It will give him new aura and enhance his Super Star status immensely. Politics make strange bedfellows for they now find themselves in the company of Talibans who have also questioned the merit of the Award. Of the world leaders, Nobel Peace Laureate Les Walesa of Poland has questioned it as he thought it has been given to him too early. Otherwise, for the world minus the extreme conservatives and universally discarded Talibans, the award is a pleasant surprise. The fact that the winner has accepted the prize with great humility is another factor that has gladdened the hearts of everybody around the world. This humility will encourage them to hope that the President will eventually prove to them that he is worthy of their respect by achieving the goals he has set for his fellow Americans and fellow world citizens.

Two other US Presidents received the Nobel Peace Prize while in office. In 1906, the Prize went to President Theodore Roosevelt and in 1919, to President Wilson. President Obama, unlike these two Presidents, is standing at a critical juncture of world history where his role will be crucial for our future because eight years of unilateralism and militarism under President Bush has shaken the very foundations of a peaceful world order. The tasks nevertheless are very difficult and would need from a US President, the qualities of a statesman. President Obama has shown the glimpses of a statesman. Those qualities must be sustained over the remainder of his current term and hopefully over another term should he get re-elected to change America and the world for the better. He will need all the help he can get; and more so, he will need motivation and encouragement. The Nobel Peace Committee has correctly assessed this need and by giving him the Prize so early in his first term, they have given him the encouragement and motivation as well. President Obama deserves everybody’s congratulations for the award. The Nobel Peace Committee deserves the thanks for their vision to honour him with it. President Obama’s election as US President has given the world the chance to breathe fresh air again after suffocation for lack of it under his predecessor. This fact alone should have earned anyone in his place the Nobel Peace Prize. He has a lot more to go with it and that should answer the critics.

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