Like most of you, I suspect, I was stunned to open my e-mail this morning to breaking news alerts that President Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
I’ve been criticized for taking too neutral of a stance, at times, by readers in discussion streams and much more so in private e-mails sent to me. Sorry, but I’m going to disappoint you again, I suppose.
I would much prefer to spark a conversation, get people to comment and maybe think about something that hadn’t before and let the reactions fall where they may.
All that being said, regardless of your political stripes the fact that an American has won the prize is positive.
It doesn’t take a well-traveled diplomat to know that the perception of the United States takes a beating many places around the world. While a case could be made the invasion of Iraq has exacerbated these feelings, it is really nothing new. I remember being a teenager travelling in Europe in the 1980s and hearing criticism that the United States is too power hungry, we’re imperialists, and so on. This no doubt sounds familiar.
That criticism is also tempered by the love and fascination with American culture. Don’t think that’s true? Remember the viral YouTube video of the Filipino prisoners dancing together to “Thriller” after Michel Jackson’s death? As talented as Jackson was and as big as the album and song were, it was 26 years ago when it came out. What we do here culturally – and politically — sticks with people.
The real key will be how Obama will use this honor as an emissary of peace that fosters better international relations in hot spots around the world and furthers American interests. On this note, there’s no small degree of irony that it comes against the backdrop of Obama weighing how much more entrenched in Afghanistan.
There are unforeseen consequences related to this award ahead. As an American, I’m pleased to see it given to a fellow countryman.