Words Matter

What you see depends on where you stand
What you see depends on where you stand

Europe has what we do not have yet, a sense of the mysterious and inexorable limits of life, a sense, in a word, of tragedy. And we have what they sorely need—a sense of life’s possibilities. ~ James Arthur Baldwin

Americans were mystified yesterday by the news that Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Europe, looking at the United States through its longer lens, sees the U.S. president differently than we do close up.

The Nobel committee praised Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Americans asked, what extraordinary efforts? Maybe he’s given some nice speeches, but what has he done?

The Nobel committee chair offered some clues in Friday’s announcement. “Those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population. For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely the international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman.”

The committee chose Obama because he uses his position to champion the values they affirm. But can spokesmanship change the world? Do words matter? Continue reading “Words Matter”