Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech’

REPRISE (from 2009): Wanted in Oslo—President Obama’s Vision of Peace

Friday, December 9th, 2011

December 10 is Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Two years ago, the world awaited President Obama’s Nobel Prize speech, to be delivered in Oslo on December 10, 2009.

It is well worth reflecting now on his visit to Oslo, and what he did and did not say in his speech, particularly in the light of developments on the ground since then. The following article sets forth what the world needed to hear from the President in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech two years ago:

Wanted in Oslo: President Obama’s Vision of Peace

(First published December 5, 2009)

On December 10, 2009, President Barack Obama will accept the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, and deliver a Nobel “lecture” or acceptance speech.

This speech, following his December 2 speech on U.S. military and civilian strategy in Afghanistan, constitutes an extraordinary opportunity for the President to set forth his vision of peace, and how we, the citizens of the planet, can move on a path that leads beyond vague aspirations to concrete achievements in the conquest of peace.

With his renewed emphasis on the vision of a non-nuclear world, Mr. Obama has outlined a core requirement for lasting peace. To his credit, he has resumed the strategic arms control process, withdrawn plans for antiballistic missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, and now stands on the verge of a new SALT agreement with Russia.

But there are other, important elements of the fabric of peace which he has not yet addressed with clarity. One is the status of international human rights as binding legal rights under both treaties and customary international law. He has spoken of universal norms, but needs to address the specifically legal nature of international human rights. December 10 is Human Rights Day, and this year it will be the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. President Obama needs to speak unambiguously of the importance he believes should be given to international human rights by the United States, and other countries.

A second critical element in the battle for peace is the emphasis given by the United States and other countries to the creation, use, and observance of international law. To be sure, in the United States “international law” has become such a politically charged term that even its staunch advocates shrink from publicly saying the words. However, we need to speak clearly, and we cannot talk clearly about the path to peace without being able to speak forthrightly about international law, and the international law and institutions that must be used, modified, and created in order to coordinate the actions of over 200 countries in managing the affairs of the planet. President Obama should share with the world his thoughts on the subject.

It is commonly recognized that the President is a great orator. On December 10, 2009, the world will be listening intently to hear what he has to say about his vision of peace, and the path we must follow to achieve peace.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

Obama — “that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls”

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

(Contributions to Discussion Invited)

President Barack Obama concluded his 2009 Nobel Lecture with the following words:

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith – if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace – then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, “I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.”

So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Indeed, one of the moral underpinnings of international human rights and international humanitarian law, including the prohibition against torture, is the belief that there is present in every human being a part of God, a piece of the divine, and that to violate that person’s right to life or or that human being’s right to the physical integrity of his person is somehow to commit violence against the divine itself, against God–however this concept may be understood. There are other, more secular formulations that express a similar view.

Requested Collaboration–Contributions from readers are solicited, with the goal of provoking an enlightening discussion.

What do the different religious traditions in the world have to say and teach us on this point? What do Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other religious traditions, and secular philosophers and moral leaders, teach us regarding this central affirmation of the divine in each and every human being?

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitten.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments and debate are invited, in any language. If in a language other than English, please provide an English translation, if possible, in order to reach the broadest possible audience. Where this is not feasible, please submit your comment anyway; other readers are invited to offer accurate translations of any such comments.

Obama’s Nobel Lecture: Setting a Course for the American Ship of State

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo is of historic importance. If followed by actions consistent with its tenets, it may be cited by future historians as a major turning point in United States foreign policy, the moment when the ship of state began to steer away from the unilateralism so evident in recent years back toward renewed American support for the instruments of international law and institutions that have been, and are, so vitally important to the successful pursuit of peace.

It will take some time for analysts and commentators to decipher Mr. Obama’s densely-packed speech, and its full significance.

The speech demonstrates that Mr. Obama’s best speech writer is … Barack Obama.

The speech is not perfect, in and of itself. Rather, it needs to be understood as the noble effort of a strong leader to provide a framework for understanding that will permit a great nation to get back on course in its support for international law and institutions, including international human rights and the mechanisms for their protection.

That course has broad and deep roots in the history of America and its relation to the world. It continues a struggle for the essential goals laid out by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his address to Congress on January 6, 1941, during the darkest days of another war, which the United States was destined to join within a year. Addressing the Congress (and the world), Roosevelt set forth “four essential human freedoms”, as follows:

The “Four Freedoms”
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Address to Congress January 6, 1941

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions — without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitten.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments and debate are invited, in any language. If in a a language other than English, please provide an English translation, if possible, in order to reach the broadest possible audience. Where this is not feasible, please submit your comment anyway; other readers are invited to offer accurate translations of any such comments.

Obama’s Pit Stop in Oslo

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

UPDATE: See also Gladys Fouché and Ewen MacAskill , “Obama’s Nobel snub angers Norwegians”, The Guardian (guardian.co.uk), Thursday 10 December 2009 08.39 GMT

Original Post
President Obama plans to make his trip to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize a short one. The Christan Science Monitor reports:

President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize episode is almost over. Wednesday night, he will board Air Force One and fly overnight to Oslo, give a speech at the award banquet, and fly home Friday. No press conference, no sticking around for the gala concert in his honor Friday night.
Valeria Criscione, The Christian Science Monitor, December 9, 2009

Actually, there is more to the story than a short trip. The details of the President’s snub of the Norwegians and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are more unsettling. Katarina Andersson in The Daily Beast reports:

Obama Snubs the King

A day before President Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the president’s treatment of his Norwegian hosts has become hot news across Scandinavia.

“News outlets across the region are calling Obama arrogant for slashing some of the prize winners’ traditional duties from his schedule. “Everybody wants to visit the Peace Center except Obama,” sniped the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, amid reports the president would snub his own exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center. “A bit arrogant—a bit bad,” proclaimed another Aftenposten headline.

‘It’s very sad,” said Nobel Peace Center Director Bente Erichsen of the news that Obama would skip the peace center exhibit. Prize winners traditionally open the exhibitions about their work that accompany the Nobel festivities. “I totally understand why the Norwegian public is upset. If I could get a few minutes with the president, I’d say, ‘To walk through the exhibition wouldn’t take long, and I’m sure you would love the show. You have no idea what you are missing.’”

Meanwhile, the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet is reporting that the president has declined an invitation to lunch with King Harald V, an event every prize winner from the Dalai Lama to Al Gore has attended. (The newspaper’s headline: “Obama disses lunch with King Harald.”)

Also among the dissed, according to news reports: a concert in Oslo on Friday that was arranged in his honor, and a group of Norwegian children who had planned to meet Obama in front of City Hall.

“The American president is acting like an elephant in a porcelain shop,” said Norwegian public-relations expert Rune Morck-Wergeland. “In Norwegian culture, it’s very important to keep an agreement. We’re religious about that, and Obama’s actions have been clumsy. You just don’t say no to an invitation from a European king. Maybe Obama’s advisers are not very educated about European culture, but he is coming off as rude, even if he doesn’t mean to.”

An Overmanaged Politician?

Roger Cohen has written pointedly in the New York Times that President Obama shows signs of being overmanaged by his handlers:

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Before coming up to Canada’s Atlantic provinces, where the nicest people in this nice country are said to live, I found myself seated next to Henry Kissinger at a New York dinner and asked him how he thought President Barack Obama was doing.

“He reminds me of a chess grandmaster who has played his opening in six simultaneous games,” Kissinger said. “But he hasn’t completed a single game and I’d like to see him finish one.”

As an Obama admirer, I’m worried. He feels over-managed, over-scripted to me, to the point where he’s not showing the guts that prevailed at various difficult moments in the campaign. The ideas are good, but the warmth, cajoling and craft that make ideas more than that are lacking.

I find myself yearning for a presidential gaffe if only to reveal an instinctual human moment. Memo to Obama handlers: Give us a little more of the unvarnished. De-teleprompt the president for a few seconds!

Ieva Kupce, a Latvian Defense Ministry official here, told me, “Watching Obama, I worry that democracy is going out of fashion. We in Latvia would not have made it without the United States.”

The great battle of the 21st century is going to be between free-market democracies and free-market authoritarian systems. America’s position in that struggle has to be clear if Obama’s simultaneous grandmaster openings are to produce victories.

Roger Cohen, “Obama in His Labyrinth”, The New York Times, November 23, 2009.

What a Statesman Might Do

What President Obama needs to do in Oslo is not to give a good speech, but to give a visionary speech—a Reverend Wright kind of a speech. Equally important, he needs to pay tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize tradition, to Norway, and to the Nobel Peace Prize community. To be sure, much is going on, from the escalation in Afghanistan to the battle for passage of health care legislation of historic importance.

Yet the most essential quality of a Statesman is the ability to distinguish between daily presures and demands and unique historical opportunities. It is unfortunate that the President is going to Oslo with his head held down, feeling a little embarrassed, almost like Lyndon Johnson might have felt had he won the prize in 1965.

What he should do, what we have hoped he would do, is to give powerful voice to his dreams of peace, and to honor those dreams by showing deep respect for the people of Norway, the King, and the Nobel Prize Community. He should take the time–just a little bit of time–to meet the children, visit the Peace exhibition, have lunch with the King, and attend the concert in his honor.

What could be more important than that?

Even at this late hour, the Observer hopes that someone will break through President Obama’s ring of handlers and forcefully confront him with the question, “What in the world are you thinking!”

Mr. Obama should not feel sheepish over receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and should not make any apologies on that score in Oslo. He won the prize because he has awakened immense hopes in individuals throughout the world. He deserved the prize. Now he must vindicate those who have placed their hopes in him.

Perhaps it is not too late to hope that he might break free of his handlers, change his schedule, and show the world that he is not only a man of brilliant intellect, but also a man of great passion, with a heartfelt passion for peace.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitten.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments and debate are invited, in any language. If in a a language other than English, please provide an English translation, if possible, in order to reach the broadest possible audience.

Wanted in Oslo: President Obama’s Vision of Peace

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

On December 10, 2009, President Barack Obama will accept the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, and deliver a Nobel “lecture” or acceptance speech.

This speech, following his December 2 speech on U.S. military and civilian strategy in Afghanistan, constitutes an extraordinary opportunity for the President to set forth his vision of peace, and how we, the citizens of the planet, can move on a path that leads beyond vague aspirations to concrete achievements in the conquest of peace.

With his renewed emphasis on the vision of a non-nuclear world, Mr. Obama has outlined a core requirement for lasting peace. To his credit, he has resumed the strategic arms control process, withdrawn plans for antiballistic missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, and now stands on the verge of a new SALT agreement with Russia.

But there are other, important elements of the fabric of peace which he has not yet addressed with clarity. One is the status of international human rights as binding legal rights under both treaties and customary international law. He has spoken of universal norms, but needs to address the specifically legal nature of international human rights. December 10 is Human Rights Day, and this year it will be the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. President Obama needs to speak unambiguously of the importance he believes should be given to international human rights by the United States, and other countries.

A second critical element in the battle for peace is the emphasis given by the United States and other countries to the creation, use, and observance of international law. To be sure, in the United States “international law” has become such a politically charged term that even its staunch advocates shrink from publicly saying the words. However, we need to speak clearly, and we cannot talk clearly about the path to peace without being able to speak forthrightly about international law, and the international law and institutions that must be used, modified, and created in order to coordinate the actions of over 200 countries in managing the affairs of the planet. President Obama should share with the world his thoughts on the subject.

It is commonly recognized that the President is a great orator. On December 10, 2009, the world will be listening intently to hear what he has to say about his vision of peace, and the path we must follow to achieve peace.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

Comments are invited, in any language. If not in English, a translation into English should also be provided, if possible.

Background Reading for the Nobel Acceptance Speech in Oslo: The U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Friday, December 4th, 2009

As President Obama Prepares to receive his Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2009, and to offer his “lecture” or acceptance speech, it would be well worth his while, and ours, to read carefully the text of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The first seven articles of the Convention, which are of particular importance, state the following:

Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 3
1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

Article 4
1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

Article 5
1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:
(1) When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;
(2) When the alleged offender is a national of that State;
(3) When the victim was a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.
2. Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this article.
3. This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.

Article 6
1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present, shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.
2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
3. Any person in custody pursuant to paragraph 1 of this article shall be assisted in communicating immediately with the nearest appropriate representative of the State of which he is a national, or, if he is a stateless person, to the representative of the State where he usually resides.
4. When a State, pursuant to this article, has taken a person into custody, it shall immediately notify the States referred to in article 5, paragraph 1, of the fact that such person is in custody and of the circumstances which warrant his detention. The State which makes the preliminary inquiry contemplated in paragraph 2 of this article shall promptly report its findings to the said State and shall indicate whether it intends to exercise jurisdiction.

Article 7
1. The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
2. These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.
3. Any person regarding whom proceedings are brought in connection with any of the offences referred to in article 4 shall be guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings.

The United States has ratified and is a party to this treaty, and is bound by its terms under international law. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, President Obama would do well to address the question of how the United States intends to implement these provisions.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

Comments are invited, in any language. If in a language other than English, please provide an English translation if possible.