On Reconciling Idealism, Harsher Realities and Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech

I've been thinking of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, delivered on December 10, 2009. I thought it was a great speech when I read it for the first time two years ago, and upon rereading it, my opinion hasn't changed.

In that speech, the President navigated between the onward movement towards justice, humanitarianism and human rights, reduction of global poverty, global cooperation and world peace -- with a recognition that "evil" exists in the world and that it must be confronted. Here is a small excerpt:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago - "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

As someone who sees himself as dedicated to helping to raise consciousness in the world -- to being involved in looking for ways to encourage the expansion of human potential and dialogue between peoples (see my website, and tune into my Internet spiritual radio show "The Enrichment Hour" on The Sedona Talk Radio Network), I am part of that group of millions who wish to help build a better world that allows for a real worldwide peace that constitutes the forward movement of human development and creativity, and human progress in science AND the human heart.

That said, I am also the son of German Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany, and whose father lost his beloved mother and brothers and sisters to the awful hand of Hitler's extermination squads. My father, along with others who survived the Holocaust, was a wonderful man who used to tell me to "never judge another human being by his or her race or religion." I came to know too that he never totally recovered from the anguish of his losses, nor later the losses of his buddies who he fought with as a soldier in Darby's First Ranger Battalion during World War II. In the beachhead invasion of Anzio, Dad saw his buddies fall to the left and right of him, and never understood how he survived, as he could feel the bullets whiz by his ears. "There but for the grace of God," he would say.

It was in part, I think, my awareness of my father's experiences that brought to life my understanding of the horrors of war and totalitarianism, and my dedication to in some way work to build a gentler, kinder world. I've come to understand that "consciousness" is the key, and that we must dedicate ourselves to first, developing our own consciousness, which includes acknowledging both the shadow side within us and working on the elimination of our own demons, along with accessing our inner greatness and gaining an understanding of our unique talents and missions -- followed by helping in some way to inspire others to do the same.

I became momentarily discouraged as a consequence of 9/11, wondering if all the work of so many to build the better world, was in vain. I quickly snapped out of it, though, recognizing that the forward march of consciousness has always encountered challenges and seeming setbacks. The Light often encounters Darkness on our journey towards greater Light.

Our duty, it seems to me, is to counter the adversarial forces with steadfastness of purpose -- and I came to recognize that that steadfastness included the reconciliation of two "seeming" opposites: first, a commitment to spiritual/humanitarian growth and development; and second, our recognition that "evil" in the world must sometimes be aggressively challenged.

It seems to me that Obama's Nobel speech brilliantly outlines the recognition of the forces of Darkness (e.g., Al Qaeda and terrorism) and the necessity to combat it ALONG WITH the need to build the better world we all yearn for.

I believe that "kindness" and "strength" can co-exist. Spiritual/creative/human development can and must continue -- for they represent the inexorable upside impulse in Evolution -- and the willingness to confront "evil" in the world must simultaneously be accepted as a decision of necessity in order to ensure a safer and freer world that allows the forward movement of consciousness to continue.

I view "evil" as the absence of light and spiritual awareness. Whatever it is, if it impinges on our right to exist and/or to live as free men and women, it must be fought. The sense of urgency to allow our spiritual, creative and humanitarian impulses to build the better world must likewise continue, and with a sense of steadfast purpose and mission. With God's help, the day will come when true Peace will flourish all over the world, both outwardly and inwardly, in the deepest recesses of every human's heart. While the President does not envisage that day entirely, and his realism in this instance is understandable and probably necessary, we must each of us find our own unique ways to work for it and towards it. And as it is said in the great prophetic Hebraic vision, "On that day, the world shall be one and His name shall be One."