The reaction to President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize has been fast and furious. I must say, in all fairness, that I too was a bit surprised to wake up to this news and have been watching the posts on Facebook, as people debate this most interesting choice. There is the expected blather of the talking heads on cable television and talk radio that ridicule Obama for winning (as if that is his fault too!), criticize the Nobel committee for their uninformed or uninspired choice, and say that this is a joke. As I have chosen to do in my life, I hope you too will ignore them and look for more reasonable and sensible commentary.
After hearing the President's remarks this morning, I continue to be inspired by his leadership and ability to frame an idea in the broadest and most profound terms. He too looked surprised, and I might imagine, he is somewhat uncomfortable with this award. I have some sympathy with those who say that this might be bad, in the short term, for his ability to lead, and the committee should have waited.
Have we cheapened the award by giving it to Obama? Have we lessened its significance for awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize for vision and anticipation of a new and promising direction for America and the world?
I plan to talk about this a great deal with friends and colleagues, but after hearing from one colleague of mine early this morning, I am leaning toward feeling that the Nobel committee used the award to support and strengthen the goals of President Obama. I do think that there is value in rewarding those laying the groundwork and taking the courageous steps toward peace, just as much as there is in rewarding those who actually achieve it. Vision is necessary for peace to emerge. From his campaign to his inaugural address to Cairo to Buchenwald to the slave port in Africa to the U.N., and in countless other remarks, this president has been speaking words of interdependence, peace, outreach, reconciliation and hope that can change our world. Is he perfect? By no means. Has he gotten us there yet? No, but "yet" is the key word.
President Obama is pushing for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and with courage and boldness on all sides, we might be able to realize this vision. Obama won't do this, but he will set the foundation for its possibility. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas need to do the hard work of bringing their peoples to the table and end this conflict with a final accord.
By awarding hope in peace, the Nobel committee is investing in peace. Can we have a world without nuclear weapons? As the president said this morning, it may not be in his lifetime, but he is following the ancient Talmudic teaching that we should be working now to create a new reality for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. By awarding hope in peace, the Nobel committee is investing in peace. President Obama, if you read and listen carefully to all of his speeches and comments, is bringing America, and by the power of his office, the world, into a new vision of shared cooperation, shared destiny, shared responsibility.
No longer can we tolerate, nor do we value, one country or two countries, being the rulers of the world. A vision that supports all of us working together for the common good of all nations, rich and poor, large and small, is a vision of peace that resonates with the great prophets of Israel. And in fact, the major prophets of the Bible were not so successful in bringing peace, but they never stopped reaching for it, preaching about it and some even died because of their calls for peace. And yet we still quote them, study them and seek to emulate them, despite their seeming failure. Success has many faces and accomplishment is only one of them.
John Lennon taught us to "Imagine." And on this day, which would have been Lennon's 69th birthday, I sincerely hope that our country and our world will not minimize, ignore or degrade the awesome moment that the Nobel Peace Prize committee has awarded all of us. As the president said, this is not about him or what he has necessarily done. It is about supporting a vision. And when this vision is coming from the President of the United States, the chances of realizing this vision are magnified beyond comprehension. I stand with President Obama in his vision for our country and world, and I say mazel tov on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, lets use this momentum and get to work on transforming vision into reality.