Friday, October 9, 2009


I went to the computer this morning all set to post about books and NPR. Then I took a look at The Washington Post, read that President Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Reading the article, I learned that the Nobel committee had said this about Mr. Obama: "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Mikhail Gorbachev, a previous Nobel Peace laureate had this to say: "I am happy. What Obama did during his presidency is a big signal, he gave hope. In these hard times people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported."

Suddenly blogging about anything else seemed ridiculous.

I, personally, live in the Shenandoah Valley, one of the most peaceful places in the world. People here are rarely rude, let alone war-like. Yet I am still perceived by the rest of the world as an American, and so judged by the attitude and actions and manners of my president. And I guess I had not realized how profoundly the rest of the world welcomes the change in American tone and attitude that Mr. Obama has wrought.

As Rob Gifford is saying on Morning Edition as I type, the last administration was perceived as bullying its way around the world, "throwing its weight around," its approach "unilateral." Seen in that context, the awarding of this prize to Mr. Obama begins to seem like a huge, international sigh of relief; the international community welcoming its prodigal power back to the table.

I recognize that actually posting a response on a blog does not come naturally to a lot of you who read this blog. But I am really, really, really interested to know your reaction to this news. So please, pluck up your e-courage and post a response. Or, if your prefer, e-mail me, and I'll do the posting for you.


  1. Beautifully the term "prodigal power." I agree with you. I don't think we actually understood the profound impact his election had on the world in the face of the last administration. But if I as an insider felt that way about the Bush team, why wouldn't those not so close feel it even more?

  2. Last night I read this great, concise, and devastating critique (link below) of the failure of the Obama administration not only to turn back much of the Bush obscenitites but not really even to try. Now, today, Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. If Garry Wills is correct, one has to wonder if maybe the Nobel committee too easily bought the hype (rather than perceiving the reality).

  3. Morning Edition, 10/9

    Just another day for the moon--
    what's another meteor, man-made or not?
    They're seeking water.
    People called NASA, concerned. You see,
    people like the moon.
    Oh, and--

    Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize
    thereby ennobling the Nobels, and--

    beetles in a Mom and Poperation
    can bury you intact from beneath, feed you
    to their young, who fly
    and scatter you across the earth.

  4. I am very worried about the increasing aggressiveness of the woefulling misinformed American right. What a lovely way to receive this uplifting news. Thanks, Martha!

  5. My unceasing message to USAns, esp. those who voted for Barack Obama, is that President Obama did his heaviest lifting in the process of becoming President. As is typical of the Land of No Historical Memory, as soon as something happens, we forget how unlikely -- how impossible -- it was. Not only did Obama manage to become the President despite being Black, he beat a political machine that was quite willing to cheat, lie and steal, and that had effectively done so to beat Clinton's heir apparent and a wealthy Kennedy surrogate.

    Obama has created a condition, by becoming President. That condition makes it possible for us to do innumerable good things. But whether they happen depends much more on what we do than on him. Health care reform is the perfect example. He is going to take what he can get; how hard we push will determine what that is.

    USAns are famous for their lack of ideology and political commitment. Nevertheless, we have this opportunity. If ever in your life you are going to get engaged, this is the opportunity. For those who didn't get this before, the Nobel Committee just slapped you upside the head to remind you.

  6. "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize." - Tom Lehrer

  7. My response: Hooray! Last year, this time, I was honeymooning in Italy. Of the dozens of Italians I met and spoke with, every last one of them, as soon as they figured out we were American, voiced their adamant support of Barack Obama. Furthermore, they knew more about American politics and issues than Americans do. In some ways, American politics affect people in other countries more than people in America. Perhaps we, as Americans, would do well to learn what the rest of the world thinks of us, and why. There are good reasons why the rest of the world is cheering.

  8. Wow, again! Thanks all for the comments. This has been a real conversation, don't you think?

  9. Yes, thank you, Martha, and also the commenters! Fantastic comments. Nothing to add here, except that I shuddered a little in the wake of the award to our president because, in a weird way -- when even Obama and his supporters are questioning his deservingness -- it seems to undermine him and strengthen voices against him, as if to say: "See, it's just his symbolic value that wins people over; once again, he hasn't actually DONE anything to merit the award."

    But as many astutely note, his power is in standing for possibilities; it's now within our reach, if as a people we are willing, to bring about the changes we want. I remember thinking in the pre-election days, when people criticized Obama for his pie-in-the-sky vision, that it was strange that we accepted, as a premise, the rhetoric suggesting that a president does everything ALONE. I believe that it is more important that a president have the intelligence, the ideas, and the gifts as a leader to inspire us to action -- not that he actually take responsibility for what congress might be unwilling to do. The healthcare debate is a shining example -- as my own small blog poll indicates, most EVERYONE is in favor of a public option. I heard on NPR the other day that in our conservative area, upward of 70 % of physicians favor a public option. So why isn't it happening? Maybe if Obama continues to give rallying speeches on healthcare that renew popular support for him it will . . . .