By PAT WATSON
He could have turned it down like Le Tuc Tho of Vietnam did in 1973 when he felt peace in Vietnam had not been achieved, but Barack Obama has accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize saying that he was “surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee”.
From the field of nominees thought to include Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Colombian peace broker Piedad Cordoba, French-Colombian activist and ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt, Afghan rights activist Sima Samar, Jordanian interfaith dialogue advocate Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama was chosen by the five-member panel in Stockholm “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.
Within moments, the swirl of controversy began in reaction to their choice, many citing the short time that Obama has been in office and that his visible efforts at world peace have been mainly in making speeches.
However, the voice that Obama has added to the global discourse in this post George W. Bush era is in such striking contrast to times past that the presentation of this award to this man is yet another indication of the release of pent up emotion built up during the previous eight-year administration in Washington.
Much of the world has been so angry with the U.S. for assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq and perceived ripple effects that there seems to be a need to keep sending a message of relief and gratitude about the change in tone. When you have leaders like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez changing their stance towards Washington then it is clear that Obama is having an impact – at least on the surface of things.
In choosing Obama this year, the Nobel Peace Prize committee continues a pattern of sending a message that is not simply about acts of peace building, but rather that their choices are countervailing efforts in the face of powerful, repressive yet conventional forces.
When American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 it was not universally greeted as we now accept it from the long view because, at that time, the civil rights movement was an embarrassment to America even as it tried to project its foreign policy image as the leader of the free world.
In fact, while African-Americans were being denied full civil rights in their home country they were fighting for the rights of others to be free in Vietnam. Also, Dr. King’s nonviolence philosophy was being challenged by those inspired by the Black Power movement and Malcolm X’s message of a more militant offensive in the fight for equal rights.
So, Obama has astutely called his award a “call to action” and remains steadfast in his message that, realistically, everyone has to be committed and involved in the process of transforming the world we all share. As he said, it was “a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st Century”.
Then too, as it is a complex existence that we weave here on Earth, the Nobel Peace Prize comes to Obama, ironically, at a time when his administration has to make a decision on whether to increase the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan as well as to decide whether to change the current strategy in the face of the deadly success of so-called improvised explosive devices being used by Taliban fighters there. And, despite extending the hand of peace to Islamic countries, he and his administration also face increasing tensions with Iran and escalating military offensives in Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas.
So, while some question whether Obama is deserving of this award, and despite what he himself has said about not being sure that he has done enough to receive the award, the Nobel committee is again displaying their canny sense of where to point the focus in an effort to influence the process and the progress for world peace.
Obama is absolutely correct on this score: If we all do not make a personal commitment to peace it may never happen. Other than that, it would take nothing short of a miracle, or as some like to term it, an act of God.
On a note of validation…
The Africentric Alternative School, which has been the object of much negative commentary in mainstream media, has in the real world proven to be very much in demand by parents who have registered their children at the school. There is even a waiting list. The facts speak for themselves: As with all parents, Black parents want schools that care about their children.