Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize


BOB ABERNETHY, host: The surprising choice of President Obama as this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace came with a citation praising Obama for goals familiar to many, especially the religious communities. Kim Lawton reports:

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: The Nobel citation praised what it called President Obama’s “extraordinary efforts” to strengthen international cooperation between peoples. It said his vision is founded in hope and the concept that “those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values that are shared by the majority of the world’s populations.” At the White House Friday (October 9), Obama called the award “a call to action.”

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (speaking at the White House): These challenges can’t be met by any one leader or any one nation, and that’s why my administration’s worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek.

Obama at the United Nations

LAWTON: Obama began sounding those themes during the 2008 presidential campaign. He captured global attention with a speech in Berlin.

PRESIDENT OBAMA (speaking in Berlin): In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help us make it right, has become all too common. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together.

LAWTON: After Obama’s election, he began changing the tone of American rhetoric on the world stage, emphasizing cooperation rather than confrontation, and then in June, his dramatic speech seeking a new relationship with the Muslim world:

PRESIDENT OBAMA (speaking in Cairo): One based on mutual interest and mutual respect and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap and share common principles, principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

LAWTON: And just last month at the United Nations, Obama invited the world community to join in helping him to make his vision a reality.

PRESIDENT OBAMA (speaking at the UN): For the most powerful weapon in our arsenal is the hope of human beings…the belief that the future belongs to those who would build and not destroy; the confidence that conflicts can end and a new day can begin.

ABERNETHY: Kim, and the reaction from the religious community?

LAWTON: There’s been a lot of reaction from religious groups, really across the spectrum, many of them praising Obama but also noting that a lot of work still needs to be done to achieve this vision that he was awarded for. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop, himself a Nobel winner, said that it shows that Obama has really changed the temperature of the world, and everybody, he said, is more hopeful. The Vatican also praised Obama, noting his commitment to peace in the Middle East and also his fight against nuclear weapons.

ABERNETHY: And that is becoming more and more favored by a lot of people in the religious community, isn’t it?

LAWTON: There seems to be a lot of momentum in the religious world around that issue. Obama has been talking a lot about ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and we’ve seen movements—Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams—but interesting to me even in the evangelical community. Evangelicals are calling this a pro-life issue, and so there is a movement for their campaigning against nuclear weapons as well.

ABERNETHY: And a lot of people have been saying, haven’t they, that this is an award not only for what—for the tone that has been created so far, but also and particularly for what might be ahead.

LAWTON: Exactly, and it’s interesting to me that Obama has really included the religious community in that work, and every single one of his speeches on the international stage, where he talks about creating this vision of a new world, he explicitly mentions religion and the fact that he wants to see religion not be a force for division and violence, but for peace, for bringing people together and for sharing common values for the good of the world.

ABERNETHY: Kim Lawton, many thanks.