These former peace-prize recipients have one quality in common: Each of them embodies a bold vision for the future, even if their vision has yet to be fully realized. Does this sound familiar today?
Reasoned voices were largely inaudible amidst the not-so-analytical shouting match that is sadly typical of the fractious political discourse in the United States today. Some even suggested that Obama won the prize "for trashing America"(Sean Hannity) or because he is black (Ann Coulter). The negative spin on Obama's peace prize is particularly unfortunate considering the reconciliatory nature of the award he is to receive on Thursday.
Many scholars posit that Alfred Nobel instituted the prize out of remorse over his signature invention, dynamite. Because the Swedish chemist did not elaborate in his will on his rationale for the award, we will never know with certainty its intellectual origins. The notion that the peace prize represents Nobel's deathbed repentance has its utility. After all, the same inclination that may underlie the peace prize resides at the heart of conflict-resolution: apologizing.
Can you think of any other nation that would have responded in such a negative manner to the announcement that its leader had received the Nobel Peace Prize? Does anyone remember Finns, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Kenyans, Iranians, or Koreans in recent years protesting their fellow citizens receiving the symbolic award?
Fortunately, it's not too late for Americans to accept Obama's Nobel Peace Prize as the national treasure it is. This week, the president of the United States is being honored as the leading voice on issues related to peace in 2009. When he walks across the stage in Oslo, it should be a moment of pride and patriotism for all Americans.