Why we need to leave the Nobel committee (and Obama) alone

This week produced yet another public relations quagmire for President Obama as he became the surprise recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He can't enjoy it, unfortunately, as people around the world are shouting that he won the award for rhetoric, not accomplishments; it was given far too early in his career; the fact that it's been bestowed upon him undermines the credibility of the award itself.

Why would the Nobel committee open itself up to such criticism? It's not like they wouldn't have seen this coming. They didn't bestow the award on Obama early in his career - they bestowed it really, REALLY early in his career.

They obviously want the award to become less reactionary, patting-ourselves-on-the-back type of Oscar-style exercise and more of an actionable, political aid for the world's most influential people who are working tirelessly to improve peace and prosperity for the world's citizens. They want to transform the nature of the award itself, throwing their weight behind individuals who are leading us towards greater peace. The Nobel can then give credo and additional influence to start conversations that wouldn't have been held, or to open doors that would have stayed shut, for people like Obama and future recipients who are still in the midst of their work. Effectively the award becomes a communications aid rather than an Oscar bestowed on retired greats who live on vineyards and ranches and spend their days sipping brandy.

In a world this messed up, with countless problems facing mankind, who can blame them? It's just this type of action-oriented, open communications approach, rather than introspective reviews of our accomplishments after they're done, that the world needs right now.

I suggest that we calm down and be grateful that the Nobel might help Obama achieve some of his lofty ambitions. Let's be honest - there isn't an award on this planet that isn't a PR invention, and inherently subjective by nature. The Nobel is granted on the opinions of a bunch of eccentric rich people in Oslo - it's never been any different. If they can start to make things happen rather than just being a reason to open a bottle of bubbly and donate a few million to charity, personally I think that's a good transition. Let's not blame Obama for being the first recipient of this nature.

And finally: if the Nobel wasn't granted on rhetoric, then Al Gore never would have gotten it for his undoubtedly incredible contribution to the fight against climate change. He has worked tirelessly to spread his message, so he definitely deserved his Nobel, but all the same, it's not like ice stopped melting in the Arctic Circle when An Inconvenient Truth came out. And that, my friends is an inconvenient truth.


  1. Emily, could this be to pre-empt Obama from never declaring war? also, let's remember that Mahatma Gandhi never got a Nobel peace prize!

  2. Hi Raj - a couple of good points raised and indeed, I think you could be right. Or could it be to influence his current review of troops in Afghanistan? The fact that Gandhi never got Nobel is one of their deepest criticisms. Just what *were* they thinking?