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Postcard from London: A call to action from Oslo

October 9, 2009

I’ve traveled a lot as an IPPNW staff member, and I’ve never missed being home as much as I do now. I saw the headline announcing that Barack Obama had received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while walking toward Victoria Station in London, and headed right for the Underground and the nearest internet connection to get some questions answered. Did they give it to him in recognition of what he’s done or because of the hope he’s inspired for change? Did they mention ridding the world of nuclear weapons? How did he respond? How was everyone else responding? How late would I have to stay up rewriting my speech for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament conference tomorrow?

I watched Obama’s press conference first. The man has class. I learned that whatever the Nobel Committee had said, he was taking it not as praise but as “a call to action.” I got the other answers from the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s website: “The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” And Nobel Committee chair Thorbjorn Jagland made it clear that this award was intended as much to recognize aspiration, shared purpose, and expectations of leadership as it was to reward accomplishment.

Here’s some of what I plan to say at CND tomorrow that I had not thought of saying earlier today:

“We now have not only a sitting US President who has committed himself to working for ‘the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,’ but also a Nobel Peace Laureate who suddenly has greater authority, greater incentive, and – I hope – an even greater sense of responsibility to prove that abolition can be accomplished in his lifetime.”

I hope that everyone back home is conspiring to arrange the first meeting among Nobel Peace laureates – old and new.

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