So, our young and new president, Barack Obama, just won a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s so nice, to be so recognized for being elected to the highest office of the United States and to not be George W. Bush. Actually, the Nobel Foundation recognized Mr. Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," which sounds really nice, too.
Don’t get me wrong: My criticism is not of Obama. It’s not his fault he won, and he was a class act at his Friday press conference where he was charmingly self-deprecating and humble. “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize — men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace,” Obama said.
Nobel Foundation, or, to be more precise, the five committee members selected by Norwegian Parliament to pick the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, I’m talking to you. Barack Obama? Seriously? The timetable is absurd. He had to have been nominated before Feb. 1 (scant weeks after he took office, mind you) and then short-listed for the prize by March.
What “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” could Obama have actually put forth by March 2009? The news release from the Nobel Foundation says: “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.”
I know I was pretty enamored with Obama in February, all swept up in the romance and hope of the first black president and a new mandate of change. But never did it cross my mind that all that was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. Couldn’t the Nobel committee have waited a bit, so that there were more than two months of presidency under Obama’s belt? Or, you know, we could have found out if all this promise of hope and change actually amounts to something. It’s just premature.
Maybe Obama could have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature? After all, he won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, respectively, for each of his two memoirs.
I mean, if Obama is now a Nobel Laureate, then maybe I should win a Pulitzer for my columns. I think after 17 columns (this is number 18, dear reader), I could be honored for “distinguished commentary.” Or, even better, the Missouri School of Journalism could just give me that Master of Arts degree now. After all, I am about a semester and a half away from really finishing. I would argue that I’ve already put “extraordinary efforts” for this master's degree already.
Considering the undertone of all the criticism of Obama’s candidacy for president was that he was more rock star than world leader, winning a Nobel Peace Prize for which he was nominated weeks after taking office is really not helping things. To be so unduly recognized unfortunately undermines Obama’s credibility.
So, Nobel Peace Prize committee, I’m really happy that you’re really happy about Obama. You know, we’re pretty excited about him on this side of the pond, too. But, wasn’t Bono due for one of these things about now?
Erin K. O'Neill is a former assistant director of photography and current page designer for the Missourian. She is also a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.