(No, I don't mean the money, though he certainly will start a foundation or institute or something. Something modest, of course, $1.4 million doesn't go all that far.)
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is certainly a surprise, rightly catching even the inner circle of his tightly managed ruling bloc off-guard. The element of surprise is good for two reasons:
1. Surprises are nice. I get very tired of a news cycle that insists on pre-gaming everything, such that the post-game is much more about the pre-game than it is about the event itself. On the home front, if you've sent a kid to prom lately, you'll know what I mean.
2. The surprise confirms that we don't control the Nobel committee (tell me I'm not being naive here).
Even Obama's fans seemed, like me, to receive this news with a bit of a blush.
It's too soon, the arc of his efforts and their effects is hardly launched. We're still in the "firsts" of this presidency. Politically, too, it seems dangerous, handing his critics -- who hate the Nobel Prize, the committee members, and the entire country of Norway, for crying out loud -- a delicious opportunity to continue their dismissal of Obama as the global flavor du jour, all photogenic impression and no concrete accomplishment.
But still. They pick, but Obama gets to spin it, and spin he should. In accepting -- no, he shouldn't turn it down -- he should recognize what this means: there's a world out there that is looking for progress, and has endorsed the way of dialogue and engagement rather than commodification and violence.
But he also needs to "dance with the one who brought him," and I'm not talking about the Nobel committee. He needs to accept this prize on behalf of the American people, drawing clear connections between what he's doing and who we are -- invoking at least a few themes from his predecessors, yes, including Bush. "Change" is the mantra for home, "common purpose" is our face abroad.
After all, we elected Bush, and then we had the good sense to elect Obama. The common element there is "we."
Update: The NYTimes has a blog reaction roundup. Rocco brings us the Vatican cheer -- face it, it's just a very unpredictable autumn.
* * * * *
Today's Reading is New Yorker humor, classical music category: "Program Notes," by Yoni Brenner. Having been to more school orchestra concerts than I can count, I've read lots of humorous program notes ... but they weren't 'sposed to be funny.