Saying and Doing: President Obama and the Peace Prize

Written By: David Carr
Photo Credit: Smith Prasirtpun

President Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

When I woke up Friday morning I did what I normally do. I checked my e-mail and then went to Facebook. I am still figuring out Facebook and still determining its usefulness when I saw a curious posting about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I honestly thought it was a sarcastic reference or a joke of some sort.

Once I moved to the morning news I realized that this was no joke at all. President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize to the surprise of everyone and I do mean everyone. People on the committee had no idea he was even nominated. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs just exclaimed “wow” and then waited 45 minutes until he told the President fearing it was some sort of joke.

Obama himself was awakened to the news by his daughters who not only told him he had won the peace prize but that it was their dog’s birthday and that they were excited about their up coming three day weekend. The pundits wasted little time in dissecting the meaning of Obama winning the coveted prize. RNC chairman Michael Steele railed against the committee for giving the prize to Obama on the grounds that he had not accomplished anything to deserve winning the award. Many on the left felt it was hypocritical for the President to win an award for peace as the war in Afghanistan escalates. The questions at hand rang like a clarion call. What did the President actually do to win the award or to even be nominated for the award? The answer is a bit complex.

It seems that while our President may be the victim of boorish town hall meetings, not so flattering signs and rhetoric here in the states, in the international community his cult of personality is alive, well and intact. The committee, rightly or wrongly may have nominated President Obama purely on the basis that he is so different from his predecessor. I am not sure of the subtle and not so subtle nuances of the nominating committee but they have made it clear that President Obama won the award because of his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Many have read this as, our President did not necessarily get the award for doing something but rather he got it to symbolize the potential of the things he will do. He got the award for the things he has said he was going to do. He in effect, has received this award for mainly “saying”. Obama himself has said he will accept the award not based on what he has done but rather as a call to action to confront the challenges of the 21st century. What some even minded critics have stated in a nutshell is that they would like to see our President execute a little more “doing” and a lot less “saying.”

In any case I like how our President accepted his surprising award and I agree he needs to use it as a call to action. This award needs to be a motivating force to now get things done. While Obama may be an amazing orator and would be bridge builder, the American populous is starting to grow weary of speeches and platitudes and appearances on late night TV. Again, we find ourselves caught within the political quagmire between “doing” and “saying”. Change is never swift. It is always slow and methodical and it never comes quick enough. If our President truly means what he says about using this award as a motivating force then I say let’s see it happen.

Let’s use this semi-awkward, award winning moment as a catalyst to get a few things done, and to be fair, our president has been working. He has been trying but this may be the impetus, to push rhetoric to tangible action. We have been caught up in the war between “saying” and “doing”. Cuban poet Jose Marti once said that “doing” is the best way of “saying” and this may be the mantra that the Obama administration may need to truly push forward the change we have talked about; the change our country so desperately needs.

The pundits both on the right and the left will have a few days of perry and thrust over this turn of events and our president himself is probably still scratching his head over his “victory”. What I hope can come out of this is the idea that now is the time to turn saying into doing. It’s time to truly put together the moving pieces when it comes to our health care system, our economic situation and the war in Afghanistan. Maybe the award is a good thing. Maybe the award can truly be the catalyst to go from saying to doing. I hope so. At this moment we seem to be a nation divided. We seem to be a nation in need of a little more doing and a lot less saying as Jose Marti has said, doing is indeed the best way of saying.

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