Iyer: What did Obama do?

Dear Norway,

I think we have to talk. Because, the other day, I saw you with President Barack Obama. You were giving him the Nobel Peace Prize. Everyone saw it. CNN even screamed it. And, now, I just don’t know.

It’s not the question of Democrat and Republican. Those are issues we could work past. It’s a question of what makes you value and define someone, or something, as a leader. And, by giving this honor to Obama, you devalued both the meaning of the Nobel Peace Prize itself and its accompanying recognition and identification of a rare type of cherished leader.

People, of course, define leadership in many different ways, from someone who is directly in charge and command of others, to someone the Lost Boys would follow while in Neverland. A leader could be someone you want to be just like when you grow up! Or, you could discuss the legacy of a characterization of ideals fraught with new philosophical meaning just waiting to edify and bathe posterity. But, let’s aim for a middle ground.

A leader, in the manner that the Nobel Prize has always defined him or her to me, is someone who devotes large amounts of time and work toward forging new ground in their field that others can follow, learn from, and develop further. And, he or she often has done this with minimal expectation of personal reward. Granted, the Peace Prize is a little different. Al Gore was a relatively well-known figure, as was Jimmy Carter, and, sort of, Mother Theresa. But, I doubt Gore or Raj Pachauri had much direct personal gain out from their work to prevent the Earth from denigrating a few hundred years down the road. And, without needing to set up foundations to build more, Jimmy Carter probably had a habitat for his individual and familial humanity.

Let’s get back to Obama, though.

The rumor is that you started flirting with this idea on Feb. 1. I don’t mean to nag here, but what exactly had Obama done from Jan. 20 to Feb. 1? Said the oath of office? Outlined his plans for the country? Said the oath of office again? Prepared and prioritized his goals for his term?

Everyone has mainly been saying it’s about his asserted desire to eradicate the treat nuclear weapons pose to the world. And I get that. It’s a pretty attractive vow. I appreciate it and so do many others. But, a leader — the type of leader we’re talking about, the type you would award — should have done more than just declare an ideal by time they were recognized; a leader would have acted it on it.

It’s not Obama’s fault. He didn’t ask for the award, I’m assuming. And, he wasn’t really given a chance to do anything immediately to quickly bring about peace. It’s not him; it’s you.

At this point, though, if Obama declined the award it would be a sign that he is a real leader. His name would always be associated with it (likely, among many achievements). And such a gesture, while admittedly more symbolic than tangible, would nevertheless demonstrate an important, but oft forgotten leadership quality — knowing when there is more that must be done to reach a final goal, and that you have to work hard to help everyone achieve it.

Maybe in a few Peace Prizes’ time, you’ll have informed me and the rest of the world about lifelong humanitarians and activists, awarding them for their names, their aspirations and, most of all, for their actions. These are the leaders that your prize has always allowed us to admire, and who have inspired many generations. And I have faith you’ll be the one to recognize them.

Until then, maybe you could suggest to Obama that he use his award money to entertain and buy a beautiful non-nuclear, not-loaded cannon.

I think we could still be friends.

Serrena Iyer is a sophomore in Silliman College.

Editor’s Note: This column has been revised to reflect the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, not in Stockholm, Sweden, where all other Nobel Prizes are awarded.


  • Y’11

    I entirely agree with you. This fiasco is even worse if you research the people who were rumored to win. What they HAVE DONE is absolutely amazing. Is Obama deserving? Maybe. Is he the most deserving? Not in this world. The whole “we gave this award to Obama to give him a platform” excuse is bull. He is the president of the free world. He speaks… the whole world listens. The other humanitarians, who have dedicated their lives for peace, are the ones who could actually use an international platform to promote their cause.

    But you’re wrong on one thing. The Nobel Peace Prize is the only one that’s awarded by Norway. Sweden does a pretty good job with the other awards. It’s been widely suggested that Sweden should also take over the peace prize since the 5-person council from Norway has proven itself to be incompetent over and over again.

  • Obama’s Nobel

    One former Norwegian prime minister is head of the Peace Prize Committee. Another commented on the award to Obama at a reception at the South African Embassy the night of the award. He said that Obama has brought the U.S. back into the family of nations. That, of course is a major accomplishment in just eight months.
    Last night (Oct. 12) on Norwegian TV, the former UN representative from Norway Jan Egelund said that no one has done more for peace this year than Barack Obama. He has eased tensions in the Mid-East, relaxed tensions with Russia, committed the U.S. to climate change, and brought the U.S. back into the UN.
    Those are actions, but detractors, who don’t understand the history of the Prize, say he has only talked of peace. But even if he had not done anything his words have been important. Words must come before action–they guide the action. Obama has, through his words, relaxed world tensions, and given hope to the world. Through his actions he has rejoined the UN by paying the dues.
    The Dalai Lama got the Prize for advocating the freedom of Tibet through peaceful means. As holy as he is, Tibet is still not free. Desmond Tutu advocated the peaceful end of apartheid. He probably played a part, but he was not the major player. Heck, in Jesus’s 3 years he just talked–except when he threw the Pharisees out of the temple. So obviously the hard Republican right wouldn’t back their Christ for the prize! But for Obama deeds AND words are obviously not enough!


    Ross Douthat did this column better.

  • A

    “Well done is better than well said” – Benjamin Franklin

  • timput

    Thank you for revising Norway vs. Sweden. Read up.

  • 2011

    Though Obama may not deserve the Prize, this article was so poorly written that its author should follow her own advice and withdraw it.

  • tired of it all

    Ok, Rightwingnuts… I challenge you name one thing, anything (short of resigning his presidency in favor of, say, Sarah P.) that would elicit your praise or even grudging approval. For the Party of No, Obama is always wrong.. by definition.

  • Obama Oscamma

    If the world loves Obama, this is a clear indication there is something wrong. Obama may have brought intangible peace to the world citizen committee (Peace Prize Committee), but he has brought turmoil to Americans. I dont take this Prize seriously and most people with half a brain will not either.

  • yale 08

    @ Obama’s Nobel,

    “Heck, in Jesus’s 3 years he just talked–except when he threw the Pharisees out of the temple. So obviously the hard Republican right wouldn’t back their Christ for the prize!”

    You are forgetting the miracles, crucifixion and resurrection.

    Are we to assume from your comments that you expect miracles from Obama?

    Not surprising given the hero worship around that mediocre former-senator.

  • yalie 10

    @ tired of it all,

    You have the poor assumption that there MUST be something Obama has done that is right.

    I do not subscribe to such assumptions.

    He must prove he has done something right.

    I’m still waiting. He is an empty suit, a windbag, a poseur.

    But that’s so similar to most of the kids walking this campus…I now understand why he got elected with the youth vote.

  • Obama Oscamma

    Well, since the brainless voters that put Obama Oscamma in office think of him as their Messiah….then I guess we really should expect miracles…ha, ha. Unfortunately the real miracle will be if we can get through these next three years of hell with our wallets intact.

    And for “tired of it all” I am trying really hard to think of anything that would be praise worthy coming from Obama…hm…ah..nope..nothing, oh wait maybe putting Crook County on the map for the world to see..yeah..thanks Obama!

    Men are judged by the friends they keep, and Obama seems to have a real issue with the people he surrounds himself with. What would make anyone believe he has Americas best interest at heart?

    Look at who he aligns himself with and where his alliances are….NOT AMERICAS!

    And as far as elections go…if Michael Jackson would have been on the ballet..he most likely would have won because it has turned into a high school popularity contest. Maybe people should be required to take a test before voting. Most of these Obama Oscamma voters dont even know how many senators and representative there are, let alone the names.

    Very sad…these are truly dark years in American history.

  • Christopher Bieda ’83

    “tired of it all,” the chances that Republicans are wrong in every instance of their condemnation of Obama must, by the laws of probability, approximate the chances that Obama has been right in every instance of choice, unless Obama has access to revelation, of course. Would you feel better about the chorus of “no” if the Republicans were to praise or approve one of Obama’s mistakes?

    I think there was a well-considered comment about the decision to not base missile interceptors in Poland or the Czech Republic: When the Poles (land of Solidarity and Walesa and John Paul II) and Czechs (land of Vaclav Havel) are agin’ you and Russia (land of Putin) and Iran (land of Ahmadinejad) are with you, you could be forgiven for wondering if you have made a decsion in America’s best interests, no matter what you may have thought beforehand. Don’t you judge a man by the company he keeps (or pleases)?

  • Angel Justice

    Obama should be praised for snubbing the Dalai Lama. Obama snubbing the Dalai Lama has nothing to do with appeasing China or “rights” unless you are talking the right of Lamas to hold slaves. Moreover, The Dalai Lama may seem like a man of peace, but the facts show differently. The facts show that he is a Nazi sympathizer. This is demonstrated by placing two key Nazis into his government. One is Heinrich Harrer, former Nazi SS officer and member of Hitler’s SA before that. A picture of him in a photo op with his friend Adolph Hitler can be found on the website:

    Also convicted Nazi war criminal of Auschwitz infamy can be found there too, Dr. Bruno Beger–another top advisor to the Dalai Lama.
    Another good site is below from the NY Times showing that the Dalai Lama admitted receiving money to attack China.

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