Editor: By virtue of the audacity of the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s choice of Barack Obama as its 2009 recipient, the world is changed.

So what impelled this esteemed body to select Mr. Obama? What, in their view, did he bring to this very fraught, messy and endangered planet at a time of economic, political and military crisis? I would say it was his intelligence, courage and integrity, but also his astounding balance of pragmatism and idealism. His leadership is grounded in the belief that he, in what is arguably the world’s most important and toughest job, is capable of inspiring citizens of this nation and beyond to join him in making the world a better place for all. How extraordinary and wise was the Nobel Peace Prize committee to discern that and act upon it sooner rather than later.

Their bold decision is risky. In the short term, it could conceivably hinder Mr. Obama’s progress domestically and internationally. And it will undoubtedly produce an outburst of savage attacks on Mr. Obama from his enemies. But the committee’s action, despite the risks, acknowledges that they recognize that Mr. Obama has ushered in a new age: not nirvana, not utopia, not a resurrection, but rather an informed belief that we can and must create a culture of interdependence and live more peacefully in this complex, increasingly interconnected world.

This is not a wide-eyed dream. It is consummately practical — especially with the threats of nuclear proliferation sure to be more likely in the future. These threats call for a new energy and a new vision, both of which Obama possesses in full measure.

This is not a premature canonization or a sentimental idolization — I see it as a decisive move forward — recognizing that the honoree has the capacity to nudge the world into a period in which people feel that they have the power and the obligation to improve relationships on this planet.

The committee’s decision reflects a strong feeling around the world that the United States has selected the right person for our time, because he insists that we carry that most energizing and capacity-building of emotions — hope — into our interactions at home and abroad.

The early rather than late selection of Obama for the prize only indicates that time is not what it used to be. Now is when his greatness must be recognized so that we can follow his lead and create a more sane and humane world.

The Times-Tribune, October 12, 2009 


New age of hope