Posted : 2009-10-11 16:44
Updated : 2009-10-11 16:44

Does Obama Deserve Peace Prize?

By Tristan L. Riven

Pandora though tried desperately to close the lid of the jar, but by that time there was only one thing left in it. Only Hope was left within her unbreakable house. She remained under the lip of the jar, and did not fly away. Before she could, Pandora replaced the lid of the jar. ― Pandora's Box

Should Obama have won the Nobel Peace Prize? Not necessarily. It's hard for me to quantify abstract achievements such as who has contributed the most to world peace.

Am I happy that he won? Yes, I am. As an American, I'm very proud of my president. As a global citizen I'm happy that someone with a passionate image of the future, capable of reaching millions around the world in a way that no one else could, has won the prize.

With the gravity of this announcement, however, I'm having trouble understanding when someone decided that the Nobel Prize committee in Norway became the be-all, end-all arbiters of humanity's morality. With that said, I'm having a much more difficult time understanding when the average CNN, BBC or FOX News viewer became an expert on the criteria for awarding the peace prize. It seems like this happened overnight ― much like Obama's win.

I already think the Nobel Committee has their work cut out for them when it comes to ascertaining who has contributed the most to world peace in the past year but I also have the ability to recognize that, as a mere English teacher in Seoul, I probably couldn't do any better.

This brings me to the first point I want to make. If you don't think Obama should have won the prize ― there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. However, please spare me the vitriol and outrage if you can't even name the person you think should have won. The sad thing is, I've spoken to plenty of these naysayers in the past day and none of them have been able to make a credible argument for (or even name) another winner.

If that's the case, then your line of reasoning is fundamentally flawed. It's akin to saying, ``She shouldn't have won the beauty pageant!" when you can't even tell me who you thought the prettiest girl was. You're either speaking out of ignorance or simply don't want anyone to know your real opinion (and I bet it's the latter).

Opponents of Obama's recent victory need to come to terms with the weight of their own self-righteousness before pretending they understand what they're talking about. Instead of bashing any Nobel Peace Prize winner, we should be united in celebrating the accomplishment of Obama's message: hope. I can hear some muffled laughs in the audience. That's okay. But this is what the prestigious Nobel Committee awarded him the prize for.

A direct quote from the official Nobel Web site:

"For his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"

But he hasn't accomplished anything concrete or substantial! Isn't it too early in his term? I can't believe it! It's propaganda!

Should we award the most prestigious peace prize to someone for their ideas rather than their actions? Yes. In fact, it has been on numerous occasions. Some recent examples come to mind:

― Kim Dae-jung was rightly awarded the peace prize for enacting the Sunshine Policy in South Korea (a policy, an idea, which ultimately failed but had great intentions).

― Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who is struggling for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, deserved the peace prize as well (she remains under house arrest and Myanmar is still ruled by a military junta).

― Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were rightly awarded for their untiring efforts to forge peace in the Middle East. (Today, we know how peaceful the Middle East is.)

I could continue for awhile but the point is that these people were not rewarded the prize so much for tangible results as for the ``hope" they represent to millions of people around the world. They constitute the ideal vision of what we would like to be and the progress we would like to make with our neighbors. More than that, they inspire us to think of the world in a more positive and uplifting manner.

Does Obama inspire people in the same way? Yes, without a doubt he does. Part of the reason his achievement has drawn so much attention is due to his tremendous influence and star power not only at home but around the world as well. Indeed, if we are debating over this subject so vigorously, then doesn't that mean that his message has reached us in some way.

When all is said and done though, I think Obama has handled the unsettling response at home with as much class as befits the Commander in Chief. He modestly stated that he didn't deserve the prize and will be donating all of the 1.4 million dollar prize to charity. The self-satisfied arguments going back and forth about this occasion are another extension, in my humble opinion, of what is most wrong with our contemporary society. The unmitigated flow of information through the internet and media has brought out the worse in most of us.

In the past, any win for the President or another American would have been a win for our country but we're so divided by our baseless ideologies that we can't recognize that a message of peace is good for everyone no matter where you're from.

Tristan L. Riven is an American expatriate who has been living and working in South Korea since 2006.
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