I Accept Your Peace Prize: An Open Letter to the Nobel Committee

Dear Nobel Committee,

I am pleased and honored that you have chosen President Barack Obama to accept this year's Nobel Peace Prize on my behalf.

No, you are not misreading that sentence. Some people seem to believe that you awarded the prize to President Obama himself. Indeed, he has made an important contribution to dialogue and diplomacy throughout the world, from his landmark speech in Cairo, to talking with America's longtime enemies, and signaling a new era of engagement with the world by appearing at the United Nations last month.

President Obama would have been a bold and commendable choice in his own right. He is, of course, only nine months into his presidency. Some people have already called it premature, based on celebrity, and unbecoming of an honor meant to signal unparalleled accomplishment, rather than mere hope.

But you are smarter than these naysayers, dear Nobel Committee. You have recognized that the hope embodied by Barack Obama represents a truly remarkable accomplishment - indeed, the greatest stride forward towards justice and peace in decades. That is why, in your wisdom, you have bestowed the Peace Prize, through President Obama, to the American people.

This year's prize is a recognition not just of nine months of leadership, but of a generation of civil rights struggle that culminated in November's election. We may now differ about President Obama's policies or political maneuvers, but we must remember how immense an achievement it is, and how much we have overcome, to be able to praise or criticize or argue about this president's policies. The Nobel Prize reminds us how far we have come.

The prize also reminds of how far we must go. It is no less an acknowledgment of our progress than it is a rebuke of our last eight years of aggression and isolationism. Thus, the Nobel Prize challenges us to hold President Obama to the promise of change he purported to represent in his campaign.

While he has made important strides toward ending torture, pursuing diplomacy, and improving our stewardship of the planet, we must force him to go further: to reject arbitrary and indefinite detention, to protect the most vulnerable in our society, including immigrants and LGBT individuals, to act responsibly toward the millions who have been victimized by our war policies, including the millions Iraqi refugees still displaced within the country and around the Middle East.

The Nobel Prize reminds us that our work is not done.

But today is a day for celebration. The American people don't always get the best rep around the world, but today we can be proud that despite our fear and the weight of history, we got this one right. Our collective effort to elect Barack Obama to the Presidency is a monumental accomplishment for peace and justice, and is indeed worthy of this most humbling honor.

Thus, I and my fellow Americans gratefully accept the Nobel Peace Prize along with our President.

You can divide the prize money among us.


Noam Biale