President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize and there’s much speculation going around as to what all this means.

I am not alone, looking at the majority of the facebook statuses on my feed, in thinking that there were others who deserved the prize far more than a President who has been in office for less than a year and has accomplished few of the goals he envisioned. And I’m sure the White House was surprised. President Obama has stated clearly that he doesn’t personally believe that he deserves it. It’s ironic how the President has refused to meet the greatest peace activist of our times–the Dalai Lama–just earlier this week.

But the Nobel committee has awarded President Obama and the United States a great opportunity, and burden, to refashion American diplomacy. The President should accept the prize not in his name but for the many human rights and democracy activists out there–and with it, he should renew America’s mandate to work for these ideals. His speech should state in classic Wilsonian idealism: “I am humbled by this honour. I do not accept it for myself or my administration but for all those brave souls who have risked their lives to make our world a better place. Blessed are those peacemakers…I make it my administration’s mission to make the world safe for democracy and justice.”

After the Iraq War drained American credibility, the Nobel committee has conferred upon this President a new legitimacy. This is a legitimacy his administration desperately needs as it tries to halt Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now all this may sound starry-eyed and idealistic. And it is, purposefully. President Obama is a realist who couches his language in idealism; his foreign policy–on Iran, Tibet (and China) and Sudan–has been nothing but pragmatic. But his administration is the only to seriously confront the Middle East peace process from day one. Clinton, Carter and Bush Sr. only acted when the situation pressed them to, but Obama has risked his early political capital in addressing the conflict. He is also the only President to publicly, while in office, call for a serious initiative to abolish nuclear arms. I hope that this award will force his administration to reverse its current position on promoting democracy, a tool of American foreign policy sullied by the Bush administration. Since he has been in office, Obama has spoken in only pragmatic terms, calling for “good governance” and “civil society” but these aren’t enough. The world needs America to reclaim her promise as the voice of freedom and liberty for all peoples.

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