Drawing gasps of elation and shock across the world, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its Peace Prize to President Barack Obama early Friday morning for ""extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.""
Rather than bestowing this honor based on Obama's achievements thus far, the committee seems to have selected its laureate as a piece of political theatre in anticipation of his future actions.
This is a hope I shared as I marked the box next to his name in the election last year, a hope I continue to share 37 weeks into his presidency. Though his ideas are inspiring, speeches impeccable and promises uplifting, Obama's accomplishments thus far are merely that — promises, which hardly justify this premature prize grant.
Obama takes his place alongside Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as the only presidents in U.S. history to receive this prize during their presidencies, and the first African American to win since Martin Luther King Jr.
Roosevelt received his award after aiding in negotiations of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Wilson became a Peace Prize laureate for negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. King, if any elucidation is even required, was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement.
Meanwhile Obama got selected for his … great ideas?
Obama had to have been nominated no later than 12 days into his presidency in order to make the nomination deadline, implying that the award reflects his campaign rather than his accomplishments as president.
It seems the committee made its selection to endorse philosophical and political ideals that correspond with its own.
Even the laureate himself admitted he doesn't feel he deserves the award based on his current body of work.
""To be honest,"" Obama said in his remarks, ""I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize — men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.""
It's no surprise that having a committee of five decide who in the world has done the ""most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses"" — as stipulated in Alfred Nobel's will — would be controversial.
The question lies in whether awarding the prize to Obama will help the laureate they believe so deeply in with his pursuits of peace.
Obama said in a Reuters article that he would see the prize as a ""call to action"" to confront the global challenges of the 21st century.
Yet it seems unlikely that with a Nobel Peace Prize on his shelf, Obama will be any more intent on fulfilling his promises and striving to pursue peace than he already was. Being the first black president and the commander in chief of a powerful nation in a time of war and recession is incentive enough for him to follow through with his word.
If anything, this bestowal is detrimental to Obama domestically.
This award has done less to help his efforts and more to drive accusations that his ""star power"" outshines his effectiveness — a close relative of allegations that his skin color influenced the public in the election rather than his vision.
In addition to the conundrums of this bestowal — Why he was chosen? What happens now? Will he live up to past laureates? — is one last question of interest.
When and in what universe did receiving the Nobel Peace Prize become an easier task than receiving an honorary degree from Arizona State University?
— Rachel Leavitt is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at email@example.com.