President Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize: It’s About Hope

Barack Obama


The news of President Barack Obama has circulated and percolated throughout the world for just over three hours now. I’m not even taking a look at what anyone on the far right is saying at this point. No doubt the right wingnuts now have to figure out how to turn this into a political liability for Obama. That should be interesting to watch.

Here’s the fact: President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


Many on the right and the left and those more moderate are asking themselves this question. No doubt President Obama is asking himself the same questions right now. As a friend on Facebook commented, "Here’s hoping Obama’s real reaction upon hearing the news this morning was, like everyone else’s, ‘WTF?’ "

I have not yet begun to survey opinion from around the world. I can only offer my own assessment. Yes, it’s true that Obama did not succeed in locking the Olympic bid for Chicago, but, in all honesty, is Chicago ready to join the Federation? (Yes, that’s the Trekker in me.) The Olympic bid was more about Rio de Janeiro. After Chicago lost in the first round of voting, the votes went overwhelmingly for Rio.

Chicago 2016 was not about Obama. It was about a young man beaten to death in the streets of Chicago just a week before the vote. It was about the many, many doubts regarding the ability of Chicago politicians to do the Olympics honestly.

To begin, I don’t think we as Americans have the least understanding how world opinion about the United States has shifted since the November 2008 election. No, we’re not out of the woods yet. But consider this from Reuters:

The United States is the most admired country globally thanks largely to the star power of President Barack Obama and his administration, according to a new poll.

It climbed from seventh place last year, ahead of France, Germany, theUnited Kingdom and Japan which completed the top five nations in the Nation Brand Index (NBI).

"What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States for 2009," saidSimon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.

He believes that during the previous administration of George W. Bush the United States suffered in the world ranking with its unpopularforeign policies but since Obama was elected, and despite the recent economic turmoil, the country’s status has risen globally.

"There is no other explanation," Anholt said in an interview, referring to the impact of Obama.

The Obama Administration means the return of diplomacy to the world stage. From the New York Times:

The Nobel Committee announced in Oslo that it has awarded the annual peace prize to Barack Obama, just nine months into his presidency, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”The award cited in particular Mr. Obama’s effort to reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal. “He has created a new international climate,” the committee said.

The announcement shocked people from Norway to the White House. “There has been no discussion, nothing at all,” said Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, in a brief telephone interview.

Mr. Emanuel said that he had not yet spoken directly to the president. A senior administration official said in an e-mail message that his press secretary, Robert Gibbs Mr. Gibbs called the White House shortly before 6 a.m. and woke the president with the news.

“The president was humbled to be selected by the committee,” the official said, without adding anything further.

The White House has made no official comment.

I don’t think we as Americans realize how far we had fallen in the eyes of the world during the Bush Administration. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is about America regaining honor and respect throughout the world. At least to a point. This prize is as much about the future as it is the past. My students asked, "What has he done? He just got elected!" But the committee is not simply recognizing Obama’s accomplishments as president. Obama has spent his adult life in service to others. As a United States Senator, Obama was campaigning for a return to diplomacy, for a radical shift in United States foreign policy. He has begun to implement the siesmic shift in policy we need in this country and throughout the world: a return to diplomacy.

Have we arrived? No. The United States is still mired in two wars. Iran — the government, not all Iranians — is still a threat.

The last president labeled himself a "war president." May this award be a constant reminder to President Obama that it is possible to strive, every day, to be a "peace president."

French President Nicolas French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize marks "America’s return to the hearts of the people of the world."

Are Obama’s — and America’s — greatest days ahead?

The world hopes so. This award is about that hope.