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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama & Peace

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
--Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t sure he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. He wasn’t sure if he’d done enough. Wasn’t sure if the Civil Rights Movement that he led, risked his life for, and eventually would die for, had accomplished enough for it to be recognized by the prestigious honor named for Alfred Nobel.

On December 10, 1964, the 35-year-old Baptist minister stood at a podium in Oslo and shared those doubts before president, king and common citizen. “I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize,” he said.

Critics on the left and right have questioned whether President Obama deserved the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The right to question power is one of America’s defining characteristics. We cherish it. In some countries, to question, is to disappear. To ask, is to die.

It’s the tone of the Obama critics that’s problematic. Especially on the right.

Erick Erickson of the conservative website said, “I did not realize that the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota.”

This type of racialized discourse is what the country has come to expect from republicans. Although the critics on the left have not typically been as ignorant, plenty lefties have responded to the Nobel Peace Prize announcement in the spirit of a Gary Coleman quote: “What you talking ‘bout Willis?”

But here’s another way to frame the question: Should a person receive the Nobel Peace Prize for shifting the peace paradigm?

On April 5, 2009, during a speech in Prague, President Obama spoke of “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He couched his comments in terms of America’s moral responsibility to act by leading the way.

According to David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, on Sept. 24, 2009, with the United States serving as head of the U.N. Security Council, President Obama personally led the Council, and directed the group on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Obama’s leadership that day was critical to the unanimous vote on a measure that calls for further progress on nuclear arms reductions through a strengthened Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and for improved security for nuclear weapons materials, while also proposing ways to deter any nation from withdrawing from the treaty.

During President Obama’s remarks during the session with the Security Council he said, “Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city, be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris, could kill hundreds of thousands of people … a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

The day before, at his speech before the General Assembly, President Obama said, “Today, let me put forward four pillars that I believe are fundamental to the future that we want for our children: non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people. First, we must stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the goal of a world without them.”

This language of the most powerful man in the world, and the action behind the language, represents an extraordinary paradigm shift. A movement.

A legitimate conversation about a world without nuclear weapons, a legitimate movement for global peace. Led by the only country to ever explode a nuclear bomb.

This is why the 44th President of the United States of America Barack Hussein Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

During Dr. King’s Nobel acceptance speech, after expressing his doubts about his worthiness, and his own movement’s worthiness, he went on to say, “After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.”

Michael Datcher


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