Is President Obama Nobel Prize worthy?

U.S. President Barack Obama was announced as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize last Friday. A record number of 205 people were nominated for the Norwegian award; among the favourites were Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Chinese dissident Hu Jia. According to the BBC, the Norwegian committee chose Obama because of his efforts to enhance diplomacy and co-operation.

“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,” the committee said, according to the BBC.

“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.”

Obama was nominated less than two weeks after his inauguration. News of his win has brought about both support and skepticism.

Many wonder what the president has done to warrant such a nomination.

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, asked what the president had accomplished to be worthy of such an award. He credited Obama’s win to “star power” and claimed that it was “unfortunate” that the U.S. president “outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”

Former Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams also claims that the prize is “politicized” and that the U.S. president is “facing huge contradictions” as he will send “40,000 new American troops into Afghanistan just as he receives the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Former vice-president Al Gore disagrees, arguing that Obama’s win is “extremely well deserved” and that “much of what he has accomplished already is going to be far more appreciated in the eyes of history.”

However, for groups such as Hamas and the Taliban, who chose to focus on the present, there is no evidence of any improvement in security for the people living people in their regions.

According to CNN, people in the United States are “divided on whether intangible achievements are worthy of such an esteemed award.”

The BBC has also reported that a large majority of its viewers, listeners and website users have expressed shock.

President Obama himself was taken aback by the award, stating in his acceptance speech that he was “surprised and deeply humbled.”

Obama also stated that he does not feel as though he deserves to be in the company of the “transformative figures” who had previously won the Nobel Peace Prize. He will, however, accept the prize as a “call to action.”

The head of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjoren Jagland, said that the reason Obama received the award so early in his presidency is because the committee “would like to support what he is trying to achieve.”

According to the BBC, Jagland specifically made reference to Obama’s efforts to strengthen international institutions and to move towards a world without nuclear arms.

Critics have argued, however, that Obama’s efforts have yet to result in success and that it is far too early to speculate on whether they will lead to peace.