The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it

Today Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was gracious in his acceptance, and he was smart enough to acknowledge the global debate over whether or not he’s actually earned it.

“I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility,” he said. “And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. 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. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”

Not only that, but in the very next breath he acknowledged that “perhaps the most profound issue” tied to his receipt of the prize is the fact that he is “the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars,” and is “responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.” The speech as a whole goes on to address this apparent paradox, and to deal with what Obama calls “difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

The full text of Obama’s speech is available online courtesy of the CBC. Check it out.

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