If I were President Obama, I’d be thinking to myself, “How can this job get any more stressful now?” Yes, he surprisingly won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, which is nothing to be ungrateful about. It’s the new pressure put on Mr. Obama, however, that’s going to make fulfilling the promise of his historic presidency that much harder.
When any American wins a Nobel, it’s typically seen as a positive for the United States and for the rest of the world. Not so for Obama. I could be a good liberal and pin the negative attention on sneering conservatives that are questioning whether he’s done enough to justify the award. But that’s just not true.
Liberals have been equally loud in raising questions about the award, pointing out that the day he won, he met with his war council to consider sending up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. This bit of irony reminds us that this award was more about the promise of change than actual change.
Like many who voted for him last November, I believe this award is a sign of good things to come.
His inauguration speech temporarily unified this nation — no easy feat. His speech in Cairo over the summer may serve as the day U.S. relations with several countries in the Middle East took a turn for the better. His election will no doubt alter the course of this nation’s history, for better or for worse. But a Nobel Prize doesn’t create jobs or provide Americans with affordable health care.
The Nobel Peace Prize is usually reserved for more concrete achievement. Nelson Mandela spent much of his life protesting apartheid in South Africa, including 27 years from within that nation’s version of Alcatraz. He still travels the world to bring attention to issues of multi-racial democracy and human rights.
Former president Jimmy Carter won the award for his efforts through the Carter Center, a non-profit entity that serves to advance human rights, alleviate human suffering, and support democracy through free and fair elections, among other things. The center has helped to eradicate diseases in Africa, and it has helped mediate conflicts in countries such as Haiti, Bosnia, Ethiopia, North Korea, and Sudan.
When it comes to peace, it is hard to see what tangible accomplishments have been achieved thus far in the Obama presidency. That is not a slight against him, far from it. Peace takes time, and his big policies can’t really be judged in a grand, historical sense until long after he’s out of office. His actions and demeanor as president far more often than not embody peace, but we need to see more fruits stemming from his labors.
If anything, the award has just placed undue pressure on the president. His supporters will now look to his Nobel when calling on him to pull our troops out of the Middle East or to be more aggressive in reforming health care.
His detractors will see this as yet another reason to dehumanize the man. The next time an Obama policy misfires, just watch, the Nobel Peace Prize will be snidely invoked about 50 million times.
As an American, I’m proud that Mr. Obama has become the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. However, the expectations heaped upon him by his supporters around the world are becoming a bit much.
Those who view the president as a messianic figure need to be incredibly careful not to put too much on the man, who’s human just like the rest of us. His detractors need to remember that a committee in Norway with an apparent case of Obama-mania, not Obama himself, bestowed this honor upon him, so holding it against him personally is incredibly unfair.