On December 10, 2009 President Obama received the Nobel Peace prize. The Nobel Peace Prize has been given to only four American presidents since its inception in 1901. There was much criticism amid President Obama’s being awarded the Nobel Prize. Some say he was a new president with little to no experience in peace. That’s true. Others clamored that the United States is in two wars now. Just a week before his acceptance, President Obama ordered thousands more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. That’s true too. Then there’s the torture issue surrounding Guantanamo Bay. Others who have received the Nobel peace prize have been committed to nonviolence and sustainable peace. Martin Luther King, Jr, on whose shoulders Barack Obama stands, opposed war and fought for civil rights through non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi was the mastermind of nonviolent resistance to attaining peace. He never received the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite the criticism of President Obama, I feel honored that he received the Nobel peace prize. Yet, that still begs the question of does war play a role in preserving peace.
President Obama stated in his acceptance speech that as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, war is a necessary evil when negotiations and other forms of non-resistance break down. In his role as Commander in Chief, he asserts he has a duty to protect the American people.
President Obama rightfully noted that peace is not just lack of conflict. Just peace is based upon the inherent rights and dignity of all persons. Just peace means civil and political rights for all as well as economic security. You cannot be truly free if you’re starving, homeless or unable to express religious freedom, too. Only just peace is truly lasting.
How do we attain just peace is the real question. All of us are responsible for attaining sustainable and just peace. It starts with each of us doing something to make peace a priority. Until September 11, 2001, Americans took peace in general for granted. We need to strive for just peace here too.
Recently, I attended Peace X Peace’s Inaugural Peace Awards. I was reminded of Afghanistan women who risk their lives and fight daily for the right to attend school; Liberian women who were once raped and denied basic human rights but have fought back nonviolently to see their first female president elected; and an African-American woman who sends thousands of shoes to Africa so African children have shoes. These women are making efforts at sustainable peace.
Peace begins with each of us. Violence is never the way to sustainable peace. What will you do to make a difference?