War Over Peace

Cindy Haidu-Banks first heard the news in her car, on the way to school. She was surprised, but elated. Her first reaction was to call her sons; she was so happy she had to share the news of this important event. Haidu-Banks, a social studies teacher at Community High, had just learned that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Barack Obama. This name is certainly a well known one, perhaps even the most recognizable anywhere in the world. But until recently, peace has not been a word associated with the 44th president of the United States.

In fact, the Obama Presidency, even in its youth, has been one of debate. Many divisive issues have been addressed. Rumors and false advertising have led to unawareness; many find themselves unsure of the facts.

Obama has broken many records during his short time in office. On Friday, October 9,Th he shattered yet another. Obama became the first U.S. President to win the Nobel Peace Prize during his first year in office.

Many people see this award as a turning point in U.S. international relations.

“It is good the award is going to someone who is known all over the world,” said Community sophomore Emma Share.

However, all do not share this sentiment. Many view this award as premature and undeserved. Although he has expressed many admirable sentiments, most have not been executed. Critics of the award say that Obama’s work has not produced enough tangible results to warrant such worldly recognition.

The fourth U.S. President to win the award, Obama has become the subject of controversy.

“He’s just getting it because he’s not George Bush,” said Sarah Kerson, a Community High student. Kerson believes that a dramatic switch in policy direction and governmental philosophy are not grounds for winning a Nobel Peace Prize. To Kerson, winning such an award reiterates allegations made during the campaign that Obama is “just a celebrity,” she said.

Others think the award is of the utmost importance. “He is a really strong figure in the modern U.S., and he has come a long way in his life,” said Share. Share views the Nobel Committee’s choice as a positive thing. Share believes Obama’s win proves that “it doesn’t really matter where you came from,” everyone is able to achieve his or her dream.

Share, as well as many others, see the Nobel Peace Prize as recognition of Obama’s efforts to repair the image of the United States. Even though he has been the President for less than a year, Obama has done much to change the direction of the country.

Haidu-Banks supports the award for different reasons. Obama has addressed many of the issues close to her heart during the course of his time in office. “He spoke of the future of the world being nuclear free. I’ve never seen a President take such a strong stance on this issue,” said Haidu-Banks.

In addition, Haidu-Banks, who teaches Native American Studies, has been following a conflict involving the Navajo nation in Arizona. On May 8th, 2009 Obama signed legislation repealing the Bennett Freeze.

The Bennett Freeze was enacted forty years ago under the pretext of settling a land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi nations. However, it is suspected that the real instigator of this bill was corporate interest.

Many oil companies were interested in the land in question because of the possibility of drilling. Although the land dispute has been settled, the Bennett Freeze remained. This bill prohibited the inhabitants of the area in question from building or repairing anything. As a result no new houses or shops were built and no improvements were made to existing structures.

The regulations made it almost impossible for any Navajo people to escape from poverty. Haidu-Banks was extremely excited when Obama showed an interest in this issue. It was obvious he “studied it enough to act on it,” said Haidu-Banks.

It is certain that Obama’s policy is very different than that of the previous administration. A renewed focus on green energy is important. “Harmony with the earth is a form of peace,” said Haidu-Banks.

Haidu-Banks was very adamant to express her opinion that “Obama is not fighting two wars, he inherited two wars.”

Unless a consensus is reached quickly, Obama could be facing yet another struggle among his own people. Those who disapprove of the President receiving this award will certainly not be quieted easily.

Viewpoint aside, it is clear that Obama is steering the country down a new path, whether or not it will lead to peace remains to be seen.

Click here to view Obama’s speech in reaction to the award.