To whom much is given, much is expected.” And President Barack Obama is no exception to the rule. After the Norwegian Nobel Committee honored the President with the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize last week for what it termed “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” pundits are still abuzz.
On Friday, Rush Limbaugh, in typical fashion, proclaimed “he doesn’t deserve the award.”
But the committee chair responded to naysayers Tuesday saying, “Alfred Nobel wrote that the prize should go to the person who has contributed most to the development of peace in the previous year … Who has done more for that than Barack Obama?”
Former President Jimmy Carter, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, also defended the committee’s decision yesterday, saying “Obama deserves it as much as anyone who’s ever gotten it for his achievement already … If you talk to almost any person in a foreign country, they would tell you their own particular hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future have been enhanced by the vision that Obama has put forward.”
It seems that in an attempt to promote something positive, this award may have actually done Obama a disservice by raising expectations and giving his opponents ammunition to fire if his policies fall short.
Only nine months into his first term, Obama can already add his name to the list of distinguished figures like Elie Wiesel, Al Gore, Mother Teresa, the 14th Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, who have all won the Nobel Peace Prize. But Conservatives have relentlessly bashed Obama, claiming that he has done nothing to deserve the prestigious award that even Ghandi couldn’t achieve in a lifetime.
President Obama graciously responded to critics by saying, “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.”
Obama is only the third sitting US president to have earned this award; Woodrow Wilson won in 1919 and Theodore Roosevelt won in 1906.
Although the Nobel Peace Prize may be premature for a president who was nominated less than two weeks after taking office and has yet to end two violent wars overseas, we cannot overlook the accomplishments that Obama has achieved thus far (unless of course your name is Rush Limbaugh).
Obama has made significant headway toward repairing the United US-Russia relationship that the Bush administration demolished. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote in the Washington Post that “relations soured because of the previous U.S. administration’s plans,” but Obama has initiated the necessary steps to work with Russia, though a lot of work still remains.
Obama has also improved relations with Iran; set a timetable for exiting Iraq that even the Iraqi prime minister has praised; issued an executive order to close the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay; and served as the first US president chair of the United Nations Security Council where he led a resolution to globally advance non-proliferation and disarmament.
But more than adding to this laundry list of tasks, he has also lifted the soured image of the United States around the globe and restored pride to our nation.
It’s obvious that Obama is working hard to promote peace and also improve life domestically for Americans; these changes cannot be expected overnight because we did not get into these situations overnight. Improved international relationships, ending an eight-year war in Afghanistan and a six-year war in Iraq, and improving the US economy will take time.
Obama still has much to do, and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize raised already high expectations to ridiculous heights. Now it is up to Obama and his staff to manage these expectations on the world stage; it is also up to us to be realistic about what we expect from Obama when he has inherited years of problems from the Bush administration.
While many hope that the high-profile nature of the award will bolster Obama’s position in the healthcare reform debate, it will also make his position regarding Afghanistan more difficult at a time when his administration is reassessing their strategy in this “war of necessity” and considering sending in more ground troops.
How does a Peace Prize recipient send additional troops into Afghanistan? Or does he? Only time will tell. Until then — despite the volley of criticism from Rush Limbaugh and other skeptics — we wait, hope and continue to support our president. After all, change is an ongoing process.
Nina Tyler is a junior majoring in English.