YOU Decide: The Obama Nobel Prize

What do you think?

Did President Obama deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

In order to make an informed decision, you should know what the Nobel Peace Prize is, who awards it, and who else has won the award.

What is the Nobel Prize for Peace?

Nobel prizes were established out of the estate (wealth and resources) of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and wealthy industrialist. He included directions about the Nobel prizes in his will.  According to Nobel, a peace prize should be awarded to “the person who 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.”

What is the Norwegian Nobel Committee?

Five people are selected from the parliament of Norway to serve on the committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize. You can learn more about the committee by visiting its Web site.

Who else has won the Nobel for Peace?

Each year the committee reviews nominations for the prize. In 2009, more than 200 people were nominated. Some previous winners were well-known around the world, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa. Others are not as well known, but the committee considered their work worthy of the award. For a complete list of winners, visit the Web page for Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

So, now you know that a small number of people in Norway award the prize to honor the will of Alfred Nobel. If you visited any of links above, you know that a diverse group of people have won the award. Those people made very different contributions to the global community.

Now try to answer the original question:

Did President Obama deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

YES. . .

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy [cooperation between nations] has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.  Only rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. . . For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”
—Norwegian Nobel Committee
Oslo, Norway
October 9, 2009

 NO. . .

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 [speeches made about ideas] with concrete action.
—Michael Steele
Chair, Republican National Committee
October 9, 2009

Analyze the Statements

1. Does the Norwegian Nobel Committee outline specific reasons for giving President Obama the prize for peace? How do those reasons compare to the goals of Alfred Nobel? What might the award suggest about the Committee’s values, or politics?

2. What details does Steele address in his comments about the award to President Obama? How are the points he mentioned related to the purpose of the committee’s award? Who do you think Steele’s audience is?

Take the quiz