Politics

Did Obama Earn His Nobel Peace Prize?

| by Nik Bonopartis

With just weeks to go in his second and final term as commander in chief, President Barack Obama thinks he's lived up to the expectations many people around the world had for him when he assumed office and received a Nobel Peace Prize.

The issue was raised on Nov. 30 when a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest how the president would grade himself on the promises he made, which were the impetus for the Nobel committee's decision to award him in 2009.

Referring reporters to a speech Obama delivered that year after receiving the award, Earnest said the president "feels that he's lived up to the standard that he has set for himself," and said Obama's own standards were "consistent with the aspirations" the Nobel committee had when it chose to honor him.

The Nobel committee's 2009 decision to award Obama was one of the most controversial in the more than 100 years since the prize was invented by Swedish scientist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel. It came just 12 days after Obama was sworn into office, and critics argued that the new president -- who hadn't served a full senate term before becoming commander in chief -- had done nothing to deserve the coveted award.

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In a tell-all book released in 2015, former Nobel Peace Price committee secretary Geir Lundestad admitted "the committee didn't achieve what it had hoped for" when it bestowed the prize on Obama, according to the BBC.

The decision to recognize Obama wasn't based on anything he had done, but rather was intended "to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism," The Associated Press reported at the time.

In justifying the decision, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said Obama had "captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," leading to widespread criticism that the committee rewarded the president for his rhetoric.

At the time, the public's trust in Obama was at an all-time high, and the new president came into office after a year of unprecedented enthusiasm not just from Americans, but from people around the world. Obama's speech in Berlin during the summer of 2008 was emblematic of the fever that had swept the world, with more than 200,000 Germans packing the area around the Brandenburg Gate to see and hear him.

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His victory was also historic, marking the first time a black man was elected to lead the U.S. and became the de facto leader of the free world.

Winning the Nobel Peace Prize was reportedly a shock to Obama himself, who hadn't been notified ahead of time, and even some of his most enthusiastic supporters were at a loss to explain the award.

"I'm nonplussed - I admire his efforts toward Middle East peace, but the prize still seems very premature," New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof wrote. "What has he done?"

During the Nov. 30 press conference, Earnest acknowledged the earlier skepticism -- but said history will be the ultimate judge.

He said that "people will have an opportunity now, after almost eight years ... to evaluate whether or not ... he’s lived up to the aspirations of the Nobel committee," Earnest said. "And the president is quite proud of his record."

Sources: BBC (2), White House Press Briefing 11/30/2016, The New York Times, AP via Yahoo! News / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Did Obama earn his Nobel Peace Prize?
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