Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

I have definitely been ambivalent about President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I understand the desire to recognize new leadership and vision, but I worry that it cheapens and politicizes the award to give it to someone with no real "peace" accomplishments yet.

That said, it sounds as though Obama gave a great speech yesterday at the award ceremony. In particular, he managed to articulate his reasons for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while holding onto the larger principle of working for peace. I imagine that pacifists wouldn't be convinced, but in an awfully ambiguous world my impression is that Obama is walking the fine line of realism and idealism. And, importantly in terms of domestic politics, he gave a huge shout out to the work of American soldiers in preserving peace in the decades since World War II.

Here's Fred Kaplan (on Slate; the full piece is here) on the speech:

Obama's speech is filled with ambiguities, dilemmas, and contradictions. More to the point, it explicitly grapples with them. If there is a single theme to the speech, it's that a philosopher-statesman of our time (which is what Obama is trying to be) must recognize and grapple with both universal principles and contingent realities, with our ambitions and our limits, with—as Martin Luther King Jr. put it in his Nobel lecture (and which Obama quoted today)—the "is-ness of man's present nature" and the "ought-ness that forever confronts him."

383. Who are the last five winners of the Nobel Peace Prize?

2008 - Martti Ahtisaari (he worked on the Kosovo accords)
2007 - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Al Gore
2006 - Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank
2005 - IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei
2004 - Wangari Maathai

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