Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to President Obama

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish scientist and businessman, who is known as the inventor of dynamite. He died in 1896. In his will, he posthumously established five prizes to be awarded on an annual basis: Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Peace. The awarding of the prizes generally bestows great prestige on the recipient--as well as more tangible things such as a gold medal and a generous monetary prize. The Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 1901.

In his will, Nobel described that the Peace Prize should be awarded to “champions of peace” who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Past winners of the Prize include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi. The Peace Prize has generated considerable controversy over the years. For example, one of the most visible champions of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, was nominated repeatedly but was never honored. After Rigoberta Menchu Tum won the 1992 Peace Prize, it was discovered that there had been fabrications in her representations of her life story. There have also been criticisms over the years that the Prize is overly politicized as was the case when the award was bestowed on Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, and on Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1994.

The Nobel Peace Prize is a secular award, but of course peacemaking is a key Christian virtue and concern. For that reason, it seems like a very pertinent topic for this blog.

Today the Nobel Committee announced its decision to award the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama. The decision has surprised many. The announcement has generally been warmly received by world leaders. However, the decision has already been met with some controversy.

A staple of law school pedagogy is the use of the Socratic Method. In the classroom, professors do not necessarily provide explicit answers to all student questions. Instead, professors are the ones who ask the questions, and their questions are designed to subtly raise issues of importance and/or to help students analyze issues to reach their own conclusions. In my profession, I’m used to asking questions like “What do you think?” and “What will the repercussions of this decision be?” I enjoy hearing the differing views that students offer. They often surprise and challenge my own thinking on issues.

In the same spirit, I would like to ask readers of this blog to share their thoughts on the Nobel Committee’s decision today and/or President Obama’s speech this morning. Please know that comments submitted in the “Post a Comment” feature below are not automatically posted publicly. Instead, I receive them and must approve them before they become publicly available on this blog. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Matthew 5:1-10 (New King James Version)

The Beatitudes

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


  1. It was certainly a surprising choice. I believe the Nobel committee wanted to recognize the spirit of change that Obama has brought not only to the United States but to others in the world. With Obama now mired in the slog of the health care bill and other pressing domestic issues, it is easy to forget the many worldwide who cheered and celebrated his election last November. But the prize does seem premature. They should have waited and given him time to achieve his goals, rather than putting even more pressure on his shoulders.

  2. Obama said himself that he didn't feel that he deserved this honor, and I have to agree. He was nominated for the Nobel prize only days into his presidency, and he still hasn't been in office long enough to have accomplished much. He certainly has promise, but I think the prize would have meant a lot more if they had given it to him later on, after making some real accomplishments.

  3. Anyone who has lived as long as I has had many hopes smashed and dreams shattered. Consequently, it becomes more difficult to dare to hope and dream. Obama inspires me to hope and dream again, and the prize validates, for me, that those hopes and dreams will be achieved. Yes, we can!

  4. It seems premature. As other comments have suggested, perhaps it's for the change that he embodies and the hope he inspires. In my mind, it cheapens the prize, since Obama received it more for his potential for peace than any actual act.