Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama's Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Peace Prize

Using the SWNIDish Time Machine, we have gone Back to the Future to record President Obama's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Members of the Nobel Prize Committee and distinguished guests.

I humbly and gratefully receive this distinguished prize for promoting peace among the world's peoples. The Nobel Peace Prize carries prestige unmatched by any other award. I know that my friend Al Gore treasures his even more than the Oscar he was awarded the same year. If Yasser Arafat were here, I'm sure he would say that he treasured his even more than the lives of the innocents whose deaths he directed in countless terrorist strikes, but I suppose that goes without saying.

When I say that I receive the prize humbly, I must acknowledge what was preemptively highlighted by the Saturday Night Live skit that aired a scant six days before this prize was announced. The truth is, my administration presently has no accomplishments that promote world peace. At the time the prize was announced, my major accomplishment was inducing Congress to pass a massive spending bill aimed at economic stimulus. With a total of nine million jobs now lost in the American economy, that bill can be seen as indirectly contributing to world peace, as the American Armed Forces, doubtless the greatest force for peace in the world over the last century, now find it easier to recruit, though we may be unable to afford to equip them.

Still, my nomination was made a scant two weeks after my inauguration. And so I ask with the world, why was I nominated, let alone selected, for this most prestigious of prizes? Arizona State University, a distinguished institution of higher education but hardly the most elite in my country, declined to award me an honorary degree when I spoke at their commencement ceremony last spring, saying that such awards ought to be based on accomplishments. What exactly have I accomplished?

In awarding this prize, the committee cited my support for a multilateral approach to diplomacy, including institutions like the UN. While I acknowledge that such is the case, I aver that such has been the case for American presidents since the dawn of the previous century. The United States has championed such efforts, even when they worked against American interests, as even the most cursory examination of US involvement in the United Nations will demonstrate. While roundly criticized for his unilateralism, my predecessor, George W. Bush, deliberately sought and received UN approval for action against the brutal dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, whose threats to humanity, now proved largely empty except as concerned his own nation, were nevertheless understood by the global intelligence community to be very real at the time. Mr. Bush was also distinguished for his multilateralism in response to North Korea's nuclear arms program, albeit a fruitless multilateralism; his outreach to India, a nation striving to live at peace with grave internal difficulties and graver threats from its neighbor; his exceptional response to the AIDS crisis in Africa; and his building of trust with allies in Latin America.

Certainly if the Nobel Prize were awarded by the Australians, the Czechs, the Poles or other small nations continually active with the United States in a forward-looking global alliance to promote liberty, the award would be given differently.

Nevertheless, I am sure that I can identify the thing which you cite as my restoration of hope for peace through international institutions. The truth is, I am not George W. Bush. Indeed, the clearest platform of my campaign was to be the anti-Bush. I owed my electoral victory in large part to convincing independent voters that John McCain represented a mere continuation of Bush's policies which had uniformly failed. Winning the election, I became the fulfillment of the Nobel committee's dream, shared by other elites in the West, to unseat the "cowboy." Never comfortable with the clear articulation of ideals and their vigorous pursuit globally, the Nobel committee, representing the perspective of elite classes in a small, homogeneous nation with little global influence, supports the mere participation of national leaders, no matter their aims and no matter the outcomes, in diplomatic dialogue.

And so, Yasser Arafat received the prize after concluding accords negotiated in Oslo, the very city where today we are gathered. Yet at the moment he received the prize, groups ostensibly under Arafat's command were waging an ongoing campaign of terror aimed at targets utterly without military significance--buses, pizzerias and discotheques. But he talked and signed. He did what the prize rewards in its worst years.

Of course, I had not even talked and signed when nominated, and I had done little more than offer speeches by the time my award was announced. Must we look elsewhere for the reason my award was given?

A distinguished Nobel laureate--and yes, many have been distinguished--is Elie Wiesel, whose tireless campaigning for the rights of the oppressed justify an award for achievement in the pursuit of peace. Interviewed after my award was announced, Mr. Wiesel affirmed that I was deserving of the award for a reason different than the one cited by the Nobel committee. He said that my election was a singular achievement for peace because it represented the reversal of centuries of oppression of black people in the United States.

To this analysis, I can heartily agree. It is true that my election is utterly remarkable in that respect. The United States has not eliminated racism. Little suggests than tribal hatreds will ever be eliminated, though they must always be opposed. But by electing a black man as President, the United States has said to the world that a new birth of freedom has indeed arrived.

Who, then, should be credited with this accomplishment? While I am at its center, I am responsible for it only insofar as I used my gifts and skills to lead what proved to be an effective political campaign.

What made my election possible were the efforts of countless Americans of all colors who came before me. Even before it became a nation, America struggled to resolve its democratic ideals and its racist heritage. For generations, the ideals lost out. It took decades of persuasion, a bloody civil war, the casualties from which dwarfed those of America's other armed conflicts, and generations more of struggle to realize this moment that demonstrates the self-evident truth that all people are created equal. I stand where I am at this moment in that line of history not because of my own efforts but because of those who have worked for hundreds of years to bring that ideal to reality.

Who, then, deserves this award? Nobel Prizes cannot be awarded posthumously. If they could, we could name many who engaged in this struggle: William Penn, John Adams, William Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Branch Rickey, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Lyndon Johnson, Everett Dirksen. Indeed, these can be rightly said to have shared the award given to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose accomplishments dwarf my own and those of most who have received the Peace Prize.

But I stand here not simply because of those great leaders. I stand here because the American people have in large measure set aside the terrible, dehumanizing legacy of racism to act on their ideals of equal dignity, rights and opportunity for all people. How many voted for me for that reason alone? Perhaps no more than the residual racists who voted against me because of my color. But clearly enough, the American people have transformed themselves according to the finest part of their heritage.

So I say to the Nobel committee and to all gathered here today: this prize honors not one American but America. It honors a nation that, though possessing the wealth and might to oppress the world for a century, has instead sought to liberate it. It honors a nation that, though once economically and socially dependent on the oppression of a caste of its people, continues to reform itself to attain genuine equality without caste. It honors a nation founded not on kinship but ideals, that has in its finest moments opened itself to the world's people as a place of opportunity and has promoted by every means at its disposal liberty among other nations. It honors a nation that is the finest product of the Western tradition, whose ideals are now embraced by peoples of every global tradition.

Finally, I urge the Nobel committee to wake up and smell the fair-trade coffee. By nominating me, you have acted in a way that confirms the stereotypes of European elites, American media talking-heads and limousine liberals--in sum, of the global left wing. Critics on the right accuse the left of caring entirely about style and nothing about substance. It has been said that those who dislike stereotypes must not reinforce them. This award has done that very thing, thereby further polarizing global politics, something that will not promote the effective pursuit of genuine peace.

Of course, you are not alone. A distinguished television network "fact checked" the SNL skit that parodied the very point that I have acknowledged, that my accomplishments are still few. Retailers are refusing to sell the whimsical Chia Pet in my likeness, part of a series honoring America and its leaders. If a public figure is so reverenced that he stands even above harmless parody, what will be the outcome of his influence? Can people live as equals if the powerful are not subject to ridicule? Peace without parody? May it never be!

Postscript: "It's as if the Nobel Committee gave Obama the award for behaving like a normal American president, instead of like a clueless corrupt cowboy." (from The Nation [!]).


Martin said...

And I thought I had a lot of time on my hands!

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

It's providential that this announcement was made on a rainy vacation day for our SWNIDish self.

We now regret not having drawn attention to the irony that the announcement also coincided with America's bombing of the moon. What did the moon ever do to us?

Martin said...

Obviously the moon was harboring WMDs and was responsible for 9/11.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

And now there's one less potential haven for terrorists.

constant gina said...

Congratulations to President Obama!

Eric said...

NPR's Scott Simon got it right with this commentary:

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Scott Simon said it eloquently and fairly.