This morning the World had a bit of a surprise: The Nobel Prize Committee announced its choice for the Peace Prize as President Barack Obama (the subject of Fast Company's April 2008 cover story, "The Brand Called Obama"). Few people had suspected this would happen, and only a few rumors swirled beforehand.
Obama's only been in office for nine months, which is partly why this is such a shock. With some slips in his public approval numbers, what can he possibly have done to justify the award? According to the Prize committee it's for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Check out Reuter's video of the announcement:
To allay suspicions that Obama landed the prize for what he may do in the future, versus what he's already done, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, spoke to the press and said the committee hoped the prize would "enhance what he is trying to do" but that it was definitely awarded for what Obama's already achieved.
Those list of achievements include efforts to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestine peace talks, talks at the UN Security Council to boost nuclear disarmament, and an openly-broadcast opinion that the future of the World should be nuclear weapon-free. He's also credited by the Nobel Committee with creating a "new climate in international politics."
Lofty stuff for fresh-in-office President, and one that had already promised a science-friendly and future-focused time in office. But it's also a move with attached controversy: American forces are still in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, the President recently cancelled Europe's planned Star Wars defense system, and there're difficult diplomatic wobblings being caused by Iran's missile tests and nuclear aspirations. Worse, the liberal world scratched its head recently when Obama himself apparently shunned a meeting with former Peace Prize recipient the Dalai Lama to appease China.
While the Internet's exploded with the news, and commentaries and debates are popping up online and in social nets like Twitter, so far the White House hasn't commented. But one thing's pretty clear: If Obama doesn't promise to donate the upcoming $1.4 million prize to charity pretty damn fast, it'll definitely hurt his public image.
[via The New York Times]