In one way or another, President Obama’s critics will dog him all the way to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and even his admirers will continue to have doubts about his accomplishments if not his promise.
He’s getting a lot of advice on how to handle the moment when he accepts the prize, so here’s an idea that may lift this discussion out of the partisan soup that is now the main course on our national agenda, whatever the issue.
The president should invite a high-profile and wide-ranging delegation of interests to accompany him. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, representing diplomacy and arms in pursuit of peace. Greg Mortenson, the author of “Three Cups of Tea,” who has spent years working for education and literacy (especially for girls) in mountainous parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Field representatives from organizations such as Refugees International, the International Rescue Committee (where I am a volunteer overseer), CARE, Save the Children and other groups doing the hard work of caring for the victims of war. Bill and Melinda Gates should be in his delegation, as well as Republican Sam Brownback, the senator from Kansas, who’s been a tireless advocate of greater U.S. involvement to stop the genocide in Sudan.
Obama might think of inviting former president George H.W. Bush and praising the work done during the Reagan-Bush years in managing the collapse of the Soviet Union and, for example, the reunification of Germany in such an impressive fashion. Former president Bill Clinton and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke deserve mention for the Dayton Peace Accords, which stopped the slaughter in Bosnia.
The White House would have a long list of compassionate and effective organizations and individuals to choose from, and in his acceptance speech the president could remind the world that they’ve been at this for a long time, not just the past nine months. He could describe himself as the conspicuous symbol of their enduring efforts to win the peace or heal the wounds of war.
If, as we’re led to believe, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wanted to honor President Obama’s determination to put a new face on America’s efforts to shape a more peaceful world, what better way for him to respond than to share this distinguished prize with those who have been doing just that without sufficient recognition? Barack Obama’s name will be the one on the peace prize, but his speech and his manner could become a gift for generations to come.
Tom Brokaw, a special correspondent and former Nightly News anchor for NBC.