A Prize for America

Courtesy of WWJ.950 DetroitFriday’s announcement that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize seemed to take everyone by surprise. Cynics scolded the Nobel Committee, claiming the freshman President has not done enough to earn the prize. Numerous Obama supporters even found themselves a bit perplexed as to how the President managed to sweep the ballots. Some suggest there were no strong candidates this year. Others propose that Oslo was jealous that Copenhagen, Denmark, scored a visit from President Obama, and giving him a Nobel was the only way to get him to Norway. I don’t subscribe to any of these theories.

Read about the only other sitting Presidents to receive the award

I believe the Nobel Committee used the prize to send the United States a message. Simply put, the world was sick of America’s “we know what’s best for you and we’ll ram it down your throat” attitude. We have come across for far too long as a war-mongering, ethnocentric nation that uses military might as a diplomacy tool. What Obama represents is a wave of change in our relations with the rest of the world. The Nobel Committee may have awarded Obama the Peace Prize but it was the American citizens, by virtue of their support of the change of direction offered by Obama, who earned it.

A President for ALL the people

The Norwegians are sending a clear message to America. Too often, our government fails to recognize that its publics go beyond our nation’s borders. We flaunt our title as “a preeminent world power,” yet fail to act in a way that appeases our international audience. In PR, every key public deserves consideration—a lesson the Bush Administration could have better remembered.

In his short tenure, Obama has already shown that he is capable of working for the best interest of humanity. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” said the Norwegian committee. Obama realizes that our international reputation has been hurting, and with so much of our current policy focused around international relations, it would be difficult to get anything done without changing our tone.

War is never popular.

It is even less popular when you don’t have a good reason for waging it. Iraq was clearly mishandled. We went in claiming Saddam Hussein violated U.N. sanctions by possessing weapons of mass destruction and that these weapons directly jeopardized the safety of the international community. This explanation would have worked fine…had it been true. Every organization needs to value honesty and transparency above all else in its public relations.

“His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population,” said the committee. Courtesy of the Huffington Post

When you lie, your credibility is shot, and so is your reputation. For Bush, there was no recovering. After it was discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction, the international community became distrustful of the United States. Our leader didn’t ascribe to the “basic values and attitudes” shared by most of the world’s population, so the assumption was that we didn’t, either. Obama values honesty and transparency, and the worldwide community has clearly shown that it appreciates his candor.

A new style of leadership: We’re all in this together.

Ignore the fact that Obama was nominated for the award just eleven days after the election. Rather, be proud that the world considers our most prominent person a missionary for peace. As the old adage goes, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Obama has incorporated this philosophy into his international public relations strategy. I think his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize indicates that it’s working.



Filed under National Politics

14 responses to “A Prize for America

  1. Perez Christina

    interesting post !

  2. Elaine Kelch

    I was/am a bit indifferent to the award. For those who throw their arms up in anger or drop their jaws in bewilderment, I say to you, “Get out more.”

    Excellent perspective, Aaron. I suppose I only have one more question or comment to make.

    While it is excellent, and deserved, that Obama’s international appeal has boosted the name United States, I believe that the American people are still looked at poorly. With the negative reaction here to the award and the dropping poll numbers among the U.S. population, I suppose it is worth discussing where we, and I mean the people and the President, go from here.

    • I can personally attest to experiencing that anti-American sentiment while abroad. While traveling in Poland, my group was repeatedly greeted with anti-American slurs and insults. Granted, I made the trip while Bush was still in office, but given the extreme vitriol I witnessed, I would be surprised to find attitudes much different now. While Obama’s poll numbers are resurging domestically, there is no poll that I know of that assesses his international public approval. It would be interesting to see where he stands next to Bush.
      As far as what to do next, I would offer that we keep doing what we’re doing. Unfortunately, it takes time to rebuild trust. One good action doesn’t outweigh all the bad ones. I believe it’s important that we continue to focus on our international reputation, and consider it a top priority.
      Thanks for the keen insight and quality response.

  3. Casey Stein

    Aaron, this is great. Your writing got me to look at this under a different light. Much as I like Obama, this news really surprised me. I hadn’t thought about the fact that it might have been a sign of approval from the international community for the United States. Or that it might reflect a change in attitude about Americans. Just a counter-argument, though: this decision was made by a small group of people from one country, not the U.N. or any other, more diverse, international group. The Nobel Prize committee is a misrepresentation of the international community, so I’d be hesitant to make such a broad statement.

    One other question about this would probably be, does this decision de-legitimize the Nobel Prize for us? It’s already caused us to look at the committee more closely to see it’s make-up, history, and decision-making process. I think this decision might say more about the committee than about the recipient of the prize.

    • I actually considered that exact point. Initially, I felt the prize had been “devalued” after it was awarded to Obama. It is true that the Nobel Committee does not necessarily represent U.N. and global sentiments, as comprised of a small group of people from one nation. It is also true that Obama, while clearly an advocate for peace, is a neophyte in international peace relations.
      However, it is important to consider the rational behind awarding Obama. Obama’s Presidency has impacted the world in a grand way. While his efforts for peace have been few in number (thus far), the degree to which they impacted the global community has been extensive. I’ll use a metaphor to better explain my point.
      In football, you can meticulously work your way down field, gaining 5-10 yards per play as you go. This approach results in a touchdown.
      You can also choose to throw a hailmary bomb into the end zone, have a receiver catch it, and score a touchdown. In this example, past winners used the “mounting drive” strategy, while Obama threw the deep ball.
      Really good points. Thanks for your comments!

    • Elaine Kelch

      I don’t truly think we can say that the “prize” is of lesser value today than last week. There have been better, and worse, individuals honored in the past. Unfortunately, or maybe not, time will tell.

      I cannot believe, and perhaps I’m just holding onto some naivete here, that the Nobel committee takes their decision lightly – or even for shallow reasons.

      Perhaps there are reasons or effects, positive ripples in the international waters per se, that Obama is the cause of. I think it’s fair to admit that there are some things that even a well traveled twenty-something may be oblivious to while at home. Not that that is a flaw, but denying the possibility is foolish.

  4. interesting post! The nobel association has certainly drawn in the media attention it clearly wanted.

  5. Mike Hillman

    Obama said he received the prize to give momentum to his agenda. The French President has called Obama naive and arrogant. This is evidenced by the fact he is blissfully unaware that the prize is being used to define his course for him, not support it. Whether that course is best for America or not. Obama seems far more concerned about what the world thinks of us then he is with doing the job of a president. I have not brought stability to Iraq, I have not brought security to Afghanistan, I have not intervened in Darfur, I haven’t closed Getmo,…by that measure, where’s my Nobel? In this case, Nobel = Booby.

    • I searched for the incident you refer to when the French President Nicolas Sarkozy referred to Obama as “naive and arrogant.” While I could not find that reference, I did come across the somewhat infamous speech where Obama apologized for Bush Administration’s that he described as arrogant, dismissive and derisive during a speech in April. Please correct me if I am misinterpreting your reference. Obama indicated in his media address the other day that he is humbled by the award, and in many ways, feels he is not deserving of being considered in the same company as past winners, but says the award”must be shared” with everyone who strives for “justice and dignity.” I don’t feel he is “blissfully unaware that the prize is being used to define his course for him,” but instead considers it a diplomacy tool. And I know your post came a day before it happened, but the health care bill just passed-check that initiative off the list. Appreciate the comments, and please feel free to offer a rebuttal.

  6. Robert

    I like your thought process. I didn’t really investigate the topic, I’d just heard about it. I didn’t even read the article associated with it when it happened.

    I remember trying to figure out what the hell he could’ve possibly done to deserve it and now I feel like yet another narrow-minded American. haha.

    I forgot that America is constantly under a microscope from the rest of the globe and I forgot what a refreshing change the symbol of what Obama stands for means for everyone else.

    I think the only thing that’s boggling America as a whole is that while Obama is still hashing it out, he has flip-flopped on a few initial policies. Because of a strong campaign for change and little follow-through, people aren’t seeing the results they’d like to and so a forgotten campaign of “Yes we can” has turned into… “When we get to it…”

    His push for a greener America was put on the backburner. His push for Americans to be able to actually see photographs of the K.I.A. soldiers turned into a media field day because he changed his mind. The economy is taking a long time to get back on track and people are feeling the heat everywhere.

    His support is dwindling, not because he doesn’t have great intentions, but because he has had little follow-through. The initiatives he has taken seem miniscule to a majority and his call for “hope” isn’t helping those who’ve lost everything while waiting.

    I’m not against him, and I’m still open for change, but I think he’s becoming all bark and no bite to a lot of people. Which ultimately leaves the American public to spit on his Nobel game.

    • I can definitely see where you are coming from. There does seem to have been a lot of talk and not a lot of action. I think that all of the “campaign for change” fervor made the public forget just how much effort and time goes into getting legislation passed. Obama did bite off a lot at one time, and that seems to have slowed the process. Things do seem to be turning around though. Poll numbers are rising and a health care bill was just passed. Now that the biggest hurdle has been tackled, Obama might be able to pick up the pace and start making good on all his campaign promises. Only time will tell. You make some really good points.

  7. Not sure we’ll ever know the exact motivation of the Nobel Committee, but I do like how the award adds pressure to this administration to respond to world opinion. So far, the president has done a lot to mend fences, but as we all know, it’s gonna take a lot more work to clean up the mess left by GWB.

    Nice job showing the parallels to PR practice. That, as you know, is my primary interest. Not that I’m against world peace, mind you 🙂

  8. I to loved the parallels. Even the perspective.

    Nicely done.

    Unfortunately most people do not deconstruct anything during the course of their day. Their attitude about an issue is developed before they digest any of the meat.

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