I'm OK With It

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My mind was on other things yesterday, but then Barack Obama threw me a curve by winning the Nobel Peace Prize simply for not being George Bush.

That's about the only reason that makes sense on the face of it, because the nominations for 2009 Nobel Peace Prize closed on February 1, 2009, just 12 days after Barack Obama was sworn in. What could he have done by then?

But you know what? Inexplicable or not, I'm OK with it.

Predictably, the right-wing noise machine went into overload. How dare anything good happen to the President of the U.S.?

I won't quote Rush Limbaugh and I won't quote Glenn Beck. They don't speak for anyone but themselves. However, I will quote Michael Steele, who, as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, ostensibly speaks for Republicans.

The real question Americans are asking is, '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. One thing is certain - President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.

You know what, Michael? This award, all by itself, says that President Obama has accomplished a lot. It says that Obama has restored America's standing in the world, which was seriously damaged by eight years of your guy, George Bush.

I suppose I could get all technical and quote Alfred Nobel's will. According to Nobel, the Peace Prize is to be awarded to whoever

...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.

By those criteria, simply putting the most powerful nation on Earth back on a course of real diplomacy, as opposed to cowboy diplomacy, makes him deserving of the award.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Right-wing blog said the following:

I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news. There is no way Barack Obama earned it in the nominations period.

Affirmative action? Did anyone hear that dog whistle?

As far as Obama himself, I think he was genuinely surprised and humbled by the award. From a blast email sent out by Organizing For America, here is his statement:

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Regardless of whether you or I as individuals think the award was deserved, it's a good thing for America. People around the world are once again looking to us for leadership. They have hope. If the award is a call to action, let's respond to that call and be leaders once again.

We didn't get to be the most powerful nation on earth by being feared. We got there by being respected.