BUT, does he deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? I don't know. My immediate response is probably not.
Obama has only been in office for nine months and inherited an outhouse overflowing with messy situations. I believe he's trying hard to address these issues, but that it has been more difficult than he may have initially thought. This is probably true for every president who has ever taken the oath of office; I know it's true of every parent. It's always harder to change things than you think.
I heard one pundit say that Obama was awarded the Peace Prize because he has put a new face on America's place in the world. Well, OK, I'll buy that. I wasn't too crazy about the last face we showed the world.
According to the Nobel Prize Foundation, Alfred Nobel established the Peace Prize more than 100 years ago to honor "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".
In that light, it's hard for me to see that Obama is a deserving recipient. I did a little more research, however, and discovered a broader interpretation of how the prize is awarded in an article by Francis Sejersted, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, 1991-1999. He explains:
"The Prize, in other words, is not only for past achievement, although that is the most important criterion. The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account. Among the reasons for adding this as a criterion is the obvious point that Nobel wanted the Prize to have political effects. Awarding a Peace Prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act — which is also the reason why the choices so often stir up controversy."
I get that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize is a political act, intended to encourage actions that promote peace, not just to recognize achievements.
But as a parent, I worry about this particular choice. Upon hearing the news this morning, my 12-year-old son asked me what Obama had done to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and I was honestly at a loss. I tried to explain the reasonings as I understood them, but he put his finger right on the nose by responding that "those are things he's going to do, but he hasn't done them yet."
There is a great deal of controversy in the world of parenting about the dangers of overpraising our children and giving them trophies just for showing up. While we certainly want to promote healthy self esteem, research has shown that overpraising can actually have the opposite effect. So instead of telling my son that he's the greatest soccer player in the world (which he is not), I try to say things like: "That was a really good effort. Keep up the hard work."
My middle son is studying for his bar mitzvah in November. He went through a balky stage and I found that we were fighting about it all the time. I decided to try a different tack and offered to help him by establishing an incentive plan, where he could earn money toward a prize if he did the work every day with only a gentle reminder and no complaining. He thought that was a great idea, but wanted to know why he couldn't have the prize up front if he promised to work hard every day toward his goal. I explained that that would not be an incentive, it would be a bribe. As Chicagoans, we know that bribes are usually not very effective motivators. Once you have the prize, why should you do the work?
I'm not disparaging our president or his good intentions and efforts toward making this a more peaceful world. I did not expect him to be able to solve the complicated problems we face over night. But, we are still waging two wars in the Middle East. Guantanamo is still open.
So, what about this Nobel Peace Bribe? Right now, it feels a little like Obama got the trophy just for showing up. Then again, according to Woody Allen, "eighty percent of success is showing up." Let's hope that's the case and that being honored with the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize motivates President Obama to evaluate every policy he pursues through the lens of peace, and that he uses it to help us all keep our eyes on the prize. And to President Obama, "Really good effort. Keep up the hard work."
This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post. When Susan Bearman isn't encouraging presidents and future presidents with reasonable amounts of praise, she can be found writing at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog.