The Prez Displays The Prize
Barack Obama Accepts the Nobel Prize
Dispite Fidel Castro’s contention that President Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize was “cynical,” as I listened to the President’s Nobel Lecture on war, peace and the power of diplomacy the eloquence and intelligence of his speech, under girded by high moral purpose and profound humility, justified my faith in his leadership and confirmed my belief that he is the right man to lead the world at this critical juncture in history.
Given the multiple crisis’s presently confronting humanity – the destruction of the environment, incessent wars, famine, world wide economic collaspe, terrorism and the every present danger of nuclear catastrophe – the most powerful nation in the world demands a President who can balance concerns about several complex issues at the same time. And I have never seen a more impressive exhibition of this balancing act that the President’s Nobel Lecture. It was like watching a philosophical juggler who juggled ideas from philosophy, history, politics, literature and religion as if they were bowling pins.
Since the full breath and depth of the speech is beyond the scope of this commentary, I shall confine my comments to the raison d’etre of the occasion: war and peace. The central problem confronting the American President in Norway – where he was greeted by protestors bearing signs calling attention to what they believed was the Nobel Committee’s hypocrisy in awarding the peace prize to a Commander-In-Chief who had just ordered thirty thousand troops to invade a foreign country – was to explain this paradox to a skeptical world.
Just as he had done when the race issue surfaced during the election and threatened to sidetrack his campaign, Barack Obama confronted the issue head on. This required him to argue in defense of the doctrine of “Just War;” in spite of the inherent risks of such an argument on this occasion. And he pulled it off in grand style.
The logic and moral core of the President’s argument was that while he loved peace as much as any one in that august gathering, as the leader of a great nation he was forced to recognize that there is real “evil in the world” and these forces cannot be deterred from their nefarious aims by moral preachment. And he dramatically illustrated this point by reminding his audience that even Dr. Martin Luther King – the American pacifist apostle of peace whom they had also honored – could not have deterred Hitler’s armies with non-violent demonstrations.
This simple assertion brought the audience face to face with an inconvenient truth: pacifism as a national policy in the face of armed enemies’ intent on conquest, slavery and genocide is a collective suicide pact! Hence, a nation can justify war to preserve their freedom and security against an evil enemy, or to intervene in the affairs of another nation in order to halt genocide! The use of violence in these instances, he convincingly argued, is essential to creating the preconditions for a lasting peace.
It was a bold and persuasive speech. But it is not a speech just anyone could have made in this environment. It worked because President Obama is the most gifted orator in the political arena, which makes his arguments compelling even where a less talented advocate would be summarily dismissed as a charlatan. Yet the plain truth of his philosophical polemic is all too obvious; that’s why I wrote a commentary in defense of the NATO air assaults on Yugoslavia when the Serbs were committing genocide in Kosovo. Titled “Bombs Away!” it raised the ire of many of my colleagues, but I remain convinced that I was right. Just as I continue to believe that President Clinton should have intervened in Rwanda!
Although I am equally convinced that the President is making a grievous error in escalating the war in Afghanistan – a move that may well prove to be as much a march of folly as Bush’s decision to invade Iraq – I agree with the fundamental themes of his argument on this occasion. As the bible teaches: There is a time for peace and a time for war,” each thing in its season.
Alas, it is the nature of the human condition; the inevitable consequence of the imperfection of man. Barack Obama did not make the world as it is, but I am convinced that he is trying to make it better. And so, evidently, does the Nobel committee. Hence I stood and applauded along with the guest in Oslo and around the world at the conclusion Barack’s magnificent oration. It not only lived up to the occasion, but I am convinced that it will take its place among the great Nobel Prize Lectures, rivaling even those given by the Nobel Laureates for Literature.
President Obama and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel
Two Nobel Laureates Reflecting On The Evils Of The World
Two Harvard Men Commiserate
President Obama With Harvard Neuro-Biologist S. Allen Counter
Proud Rich Afro- Americans Who Travelled To Oslo to Bear Witness
Actors Will & Jada Smith Hanging With Dr. Counter
Dr. Counter and Wycliff Jean
Soul In Scandanavia
Distinguished Harvard Administrator David L. Evans
Harlem New york
December 10, 2009