Yesterday, I was standing in the corridor at work discussing with a technical officer a document I was editing when one of his colleagues came out and said, "Barack Obama just won the Nobel Peace Prize."
What followed was stunned silence on my part and exuberance on the part of the non-Americans. Stunned because although I voted for President Obama and I fully support his efforts at home and abroad, I am still waiting to see results on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the closure of Guantanamo Bay, improvements in the U.S. economy and employment situations, universal healthcare, efforts to combat climate change, and the extension of basic human rights to all peoples. I don't expect miracles overnight, like some Americans and President Obama's worst critics do. I believe change can be both immediate and measured; the president will get results by being bold and swift and methodical and deliberate.
But the Nobel Peace Prize? Already? I think it's a bit premature.
Our European friends generally see America as moving back toward policies that embody peace and universal human rights and President Obama is a hopeful, credible messenger of that cause. After eight years of cowboy diplomacy, the Obama Administration is correcting that course and sending signals that shock and awe is bad policy. On a continent and in countries where wars have had devastating consequences in the last century and where nationalism is still a value, but cooperation is seen as a necessity, peace is a relevant and worthy value.
As I stood in the corridor accepting the congratulations of many of my colleagues, my stupor was broken by a gentleman from Great Britain who offered this agreeable perspective and opinion:
"The Nobel Prize," he posited, "shouldn't be awarded to President Obama. It should be given to the American people for having the courage to elect a man to office who will, hopefully, bring peace to the world."
To that I can say "Amen" and congratulations to the American people.
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