Today, we learned that President Barack Obama will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. Many people are stunned. Some question the role of international politics in the selection process, others support the decision and believe it is an endorsement of President Obama's strategy and goals for the United States, both domestically and internationally.
The debate over whether the President deserves the Prize is dominating chat rooms and forums on the internet, radio and television talkshows, and of course countless conversations around the office and at home.
The deadline for accepting nominations for the Prize ended less than two weeks after Barack Obama took office. It's unclear who nominated the President. Here's a link to the database of Nobel Peace Prize nominees. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are among the nominees. So, I guess the question is: What did he do in twelve days as President to earn a nomination, and what did he do since then to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?
President Obama is the third sitting President to win the honor. Teddy Roosevelt won in 1905, Woodrow Wilson in 1920. Jimmy Carter won the honor in 2002, twenty-five years after he was elected President.
Let's compare the Presidents and the reasons why they received the honor.
Jimmy Carter won the Prize in 2002, a quarter century after he became President in 1977. The Nobel website lists the following accomplishments during his presidency: "Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. He championed human rights throughout the world."
He got the Prize 25 years after taking office.
Woodrow Wilson, President from 1913-21. This quote is from Wikipedia..."In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
He got the Prize 7 years after taking office.
Teddy Roosevelt, President from 1901-1909, won the Prize in 1905, the first "statesman" to win. Like Obama's honor, Roosevelt's was very controversial. This quote is from the Nobel website...."Theodore Roosevelt, President of the USA, received the Peace Prize for having negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-5. He also resolved a dispute with Mexico by resorting to arbitration as recommended by the peace movement. Roosevelt was the first statesman to be awarded the Peace Prize, and for the first time the award was controversial. The Norwegian Left argued that Roosevelt was a "military mad" imperialist who completed the American conquest of the Philippines. Swedish newspapers wrote that Alfred Nobel was turning in his grave, and that Norway awarded the Peace Prize to Roosevelt in order to win powerful friends after the dramatic dissolution of the union with Sweden the previous year."
He got the Prize 4 years after taking office.
Clearly, President Obama hasn't been able to pull together a resume like the other Presidents who have received the honor. However, the Nobel Committee based its selection on "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
Last year, seventy-six Nobel Laureates endorsed Barack Obama for President. I wonder if they endorse his selection as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize?
By the way, Mahatma Ghandi never won the Peace Prize. I doubt if anyone feels good about that.