Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama: Profoundly for Peace

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul...

Emily Dickinson captured the ephemeral power of hope, and today the Nobel committee awarded this year's peace prize to President Barack Obama--for bringing renewed hope of peace to each person on the planet.

What a good day! "An imaginative and surprising" handling of this year's award, said Desmond Tutu, who won the prize in 1984.

And yes, an obvious "a kick in the leg" to the Bush administration's war policies, commented Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of the Nobel committee.


Just one year ago the immense political, economic, and military power of the USA was stuck in Belligerent Mode. American imperialism blew around the world unchecked like a cloud of poisonous gas.

But today a small bird perches in many souls "And sings the tune--without the words / And never stops at all."

When I was travelling in India last summer, I met people on the streets, the banks of the Ganges, the walkways of historic sites like the Taj Mahal who spoke fluent English--and others whose English was almost as limited as my Hindi.

But in every encounter, as soon as I identified my nationality, Indians spoke one word that brought smiles to all our faces.


The t-shirt I happened to wear today says "Wage Peace" silk-screened over a blue-green planet earth.

Obama's greatest initiative in waging peace was his speech in Cairo last June. He spoke respectfully of Islam and quoted the Qu'ran, touching the hearts of all Muslims, who had been nearly equated with terrorists by the previous president.

To learn about Obama's decisive leadership in the writing of that speech, read the report of Christi Parsons in "The Making of a Message" (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 2, 2009). You can buy the article from the LA Times or access the full text through Proquest Newspapers if you have connection to an academic institution.

Parsons concludes with this measurement of the speech's impact:

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, heard [from a friend in Cairo]... that on the day of the speech, he saw a little boy walking along the street, a smile on his face as he chanted in a soft, singsong voice: "Obama quoted the Koran. Obama quoted the Koran."

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