On October 9, 2009 President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.” Though this passage captures his award to be that of a respectable stature, there is a global controversy surrounding this event. Richard Mahoney, professor of peace and conflict studies, and once an elected political official, gives his views on the matter.
Why was Barack Obama awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?
For no good reason. I think he looked a little nervous and shame-faced when he walked out; even he didn’t think he should have gotten it. A lot of people think he is a promising and eloquent leader. But the Noble Price is about achievement. I thought he passed up an opportunity to say, “I don’t think I deserve this… it belongs to the brave people devoting their entire careers to this cause.”
Peace Prize participants had to be nominated by Feb. 1. Obama, in his second week of presidency was nominated. Do you feel at the time or at this time, the President has done what is globally accepted as grounds for this award?
No, not even close. It was not merited and given prematurely. What he has done has been pretty mediocre in the area of peace making. He has announced that he is closing Guantanamo but hasn’t changed the unlawful acts. Barack Obama gives a great speech in front of the UN and a nonproliferation debate was something a president has never done. But in terms of achievements he’s lacking.
Has all of the controversy been blown out of proportion?
The left that supported Obama needs to remember that he defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton with an anti-war stance. It is time to hold his feet to the fire.
Obama accepted his award as a “call to action.” What do you feel Obama will have to achieve to be worthy of the Peace Prize?
He needs to, first of all, disengage from Afghanistan. I think he needs to get serious about criminalizing terrorism, instead of militarizing. I think he needs to give greater power to NGOs and UN agencies. I think there is a reason for hope, but he is playing it safe.
Has the Peace Prize become more symbolic than anything?
Well. I have always felt that giving it to politicians has been symbolic. I think that they should give it to the frontline humanitarians. Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala used the Prize to create a mass movement … the Prize kept her from being arrested, tortured and killed. This award should be given to protect people to do more.
-Erin Kreischer ’13, Juniata Online Journalist