President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
10 December, 2009, Oslo, Norway
Barack Obama is the 44th and current president of the United States and the first black president in American history. As a youngster, Obama was intelligent and eager to learn; traits that helped him obtain a scholarship to a private school from fifth grade until his graduation from high school.
To the surprise of many, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize soon after becoming president. In his acceptance speech, he acknowledged the irony of the award being given to the president of a country in the midst of several wars and spoke of his vision for world peace.
“I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.
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 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. But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars.
I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence as those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.
Let me now speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.
First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.
This brings me to a second point- the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting. And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development.
Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights, it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.”
Since giving this speech, Barack Obama has taken some positive steps to remedy several wrongs done by the United States in the 21st century, namely reduction of the American military presence in Afghanistan and repeated efforts to shut down the notorious Guantanamo Bay prisoner detention camp.
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