President Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

By Dialogo
December 10, 2009



U.S. President Barack Obama formally accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at a
ceremony in Oslo, Norway. The president spoke at length about the circumstances that
push nations to war, and prompt them to seek peace.

President Obama said he accepted the peace prize with humility, well aware of
the controversy that surrounded the choice of the Nobel Committee.

"In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my
labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have
received this prize - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments
are slight," he said.

But he says the most profound issue surrounding the award is the fact that he
is the leader of a nation in the midst of two wars.

"We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young
Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed," he
said. "And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict - filled
with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our
effort to replace one with the other."

He says there is nothing weak in the path of non-violence championed by the
1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet Mr. Obama says it cannot
be the only path. He says he cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the
American people.

"A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations
cannot convince al Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms," he said. "To say that
force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of
history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

His speech to a crowd of dignitaries in Oslo's city hall came just nine days
after he ordered another 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Well aware of the
juxtaposition of events, the president focused on the notion of "just war", and the
concept of sustainable peace.

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate
violent conflict in our lifetimes," said Mr. Obama. "There will be times when
nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only
necessary but morally justified."

He echoed the words of former U.S. President John Kennedy, who five decades
ago spoke of a realistic, more attainable peace.

President Obama said rules and institutions are needed to keep military
action in check. He made specific mention of the need to adhere to strict codes of
conduct, and to see that countries live up to their international
obligations.

"Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when
those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the
danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia," he said. "Those who seek
peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war."

President Obama went on to speak about nations that abuse their own people.
He said peace must be more than the absence of military conflict.

"So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different
countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal,"
added Mr. Obama. "We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung
Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of
beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets
of Iran."

He said the search for peace must entail support for strong institutions,
human rights and freedom from want. But he said there is one other key ingredient
for a more peaceful world.

" I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to
complete this work without something more - and that is the continued expansion of
our moral imagination; an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all
share," he said.

In announcing its choice for the 2009 Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee cited
the president's efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation. It
said he has captured the imagination of the world with his message of
hope.
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