US President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to improve international relations throughout the first year of his presidency. The announcement was greeted with mixed reviews at home and abroad. Concerns have been expressed that President Obama, in his nine months, has not had enough time to achieve enough internationally to be worthy of such a prestigious award.The President was nominated just two weeks after his inauguration.
The award is further evidence of a growing belief among Nobel scholars that the award has become increasingly politicized over the past few years, most notably in their hated of the Bush administration. Although President Obama’s efforts at diplomacy have generally been met with international approval, some question what he has actually achieved other than hosting summits and increasing international rhetoric.The Head of the Nobel Prize Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland defended their decision, stating: “It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve. [Obama] has created a new climate in international politics.It is a clear signal that we want to advocate what he has done.”
The Nobel Prize Committee highlighted Obama’s work to support international bodies and promote nuclear disarmament. However, critics maintain that the prize should be awarded for actual achievements rather than as a tool for encouragement. In his own country, Obama has come under fire from conservative bloggers and even some liberals. Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee asks “What has President Obama actually accomplished?It is unfortunate that the President’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”
The endorcement and congratulations recently voiced by Fidel Castro have only served to futher anger the conservatives. Liberal bloggers maintain that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must come to an end before President Obama can be deemed truly deserving of such a prize. Obama is the first US President to be given the award since Jimmy Carter in 2002. Carter called Obama’s win “bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment.” Obama himself remained humble and modest in his media statement. “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments.” He said he would accept the prize as “a call to action” rather than a affirmation of his diplomatic achievements.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the situation is the increased pressure on President Obama to solve the world’s problems as well as completely alter America’s health care system and mend the national economy. BBC North America editor Mark Mardell said “There was a huge weight of responsibility on Obama’s shoulders, and this medal hung round his neck has just made it a little heavier.” The Nobel Peace Prize was created by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite. It was first awarded in 1902.