Saturday, February 17 , 2018, 5:18 pm | Fair 64º

 
 
 

Harris Sherline: The Nobel Peace Prize and Politics

How does Obama stack up against some of the past winners? You decide

[Noozhawk’s note: A previous version of this column erroneously said President Barack Obama had been selected for the Nobel Peace Prize after 11 days in office when, in fact, he had only been nominated at that time. The error has been corrected.]

Wow. Imagine being selected to win a major award without even trying. How great is that?

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

Considering that President Barack Obama was nominated as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner after only 11 days in office, without having yet done anything of note, it makes me wonder if I might be eligible for a Pulitzer Prize for my commentaries. Not that I have been nominated by any newspapers or that any of my columns have been singled out for special recognition. They haven’t, nor do I think they should be. But, hey, why should that matter?

Reaction to Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize has been mixed. Those who think he hasn’t accomplished anything of consequence believe that the award is completely unjustified, while his supporters argue that he has earned it because he has changed the tone of international diplomacy, especially the aggressive policy of the United States that was the hallmark of the Bush administration.

The Wall Street Journal said, “The award reflects the enormous hopes invested in Mr. Obama, both in the U.S. and abroad, since he entered the White House, and occasionally unrealistic expectations that his presidency could change the face of international diplomacy.”

Times Online in the United Kingdom noted, “Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush administration, approval of the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honor its promise to re-engage with the world. ... Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronizing in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.”

Three comments about Obama’s award that were sent to me are of particular interest:

“Former President Jimmy Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, called Obama’s selection a ‘bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment.’” Note: This from a man whose primary focus seems to be pursuing the historical legacy that he apparently believes is his due but has never received.

“Former Vice President Al Gore, who won two years ago, said, ‘I think that much of what he has accomplished already is going to be far more appreciated in the eyes of history, as it has been by the Nobel committee.’” Note: Gore’s Nobel Prize was awarded for his subsequently discredited PowerPoint presentation about global warming.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CNN he could not divine the Nobel Committee’s intentions, ‘but I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we’re proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category.’”

I can agree with McCain’s thought about being proud, but unfortunately, I am not able to associate that feeling with Obama.

In light of the foregoing opinions, how does Obama stack up against some of the Nobel Prize winners in prior years? You decide.

» 2008: Martti Ahtisaari, Finland, for his important efforts to resolve international conflicts

» 2006: Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh, founder of Grameen Bank, for efforts to create economic and social development from below

» 1993: Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk, South Africa, for their work in ending apartheid

» 1989: The 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet

» 1986: Elie Wiesel, United States, chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust

» 1983: Lech Walesa, Poland, founder of Solidarity trade union, which led to the fall of the Communist government in his nation

» 1979: Mother Teresa, leader of Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta, whose entire life was dedicated to those who lived in poverty

» 1964: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., United States, leader of Southern Christian Leadership Conference

» 1951: Albert Schweitzer, France, missionary surgeon, founder of Lambarene

» 1950: Ralph Bunche, United States, acting mediator in Palestine

» 1936: Carlos Saavedra, Argentina, mediator in conflict between Paraguay and Bolivia

» 1917: The International Red Cross

Although Mahatma Gandhi never received a Nobel Prize, he was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948, a few days before he was murdered. Several winners believed in and followed his philosophy of peace and nonviolence, including King, Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama.

The Nobel Prize dates back to 1901 and, until now, generally has been awarded to people whose accomplishments spanned many years. To my knowledge, this is the first time the recipient has yet to do anything except talk.

So, returning to my earlier question: How does Obama stack up against Nobel Prize winners from prior years?

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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