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I think surprise was a universal emotion last Friday when it was reported that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For many of the president’s supporters, the main question was, “How can Obama receive this award before any results of his initiatives can be seen?” For detractors, the announcement was met with cries that this award simply shows the power of the president’s celebrity status, among many other complaints.

Personally, I wasn’t shocked that an American president received the prize, but I think it was former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) who deserved the honor.

Before I get to why Clinton deserves this honor, I think it is important to examine why Obama did receive the award. The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, responded to those who claimed that Obama’s award was premature by saying, “It could be too late to respond [to Obama’s efforts] three years from now.” Jagland’s comment makes it clear that the committee’s decision to give Obama the peace prize was, in large part, an endorsement of his call to the international community to reduce nuclear arms, his openness to working through diplomatic channels in dealing with traditional foes of the United States and his overall push for peace between all nations.

While these goals are certainly admirable and ones that, in my opinion, are worthy of consideration by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, I do not think that the committee should have given the president the award before it sees the returns from other nations and their leaders.

In many ways, this pick is similar to the award given to President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 for his work to form the League of Nations. This institution, the forerunner to the modern United Nations, was a visionary body that had great potential for working to ensure future peace between nations. The decision to give Wilson the award, however, has gone down as one of the most controversial the Nobel Committee has made. Though Wilson promoted peace and crafted the League of Nations, the institution was a dismal failure, in large part because Wilson was unable to secure American ratification of the treaty establishing it.

If Obama is unable to achieve some measure of success in his initiatives, this year’s award will likely be viewed in the future much as Wilson’s is viewed today.

Then who should have received this year’s award? As I stated before, Clinton is more than deserving of this honor. I think the best place to start is to examine his diplomatic achievements while in office. In addition to his efforts to secure peace between the Israeli and Palestinian governments which brought the two nations closer to a solution than they had been in recent memory, Clinton worked to end ethnic cleansing in Bosnia through a limited and proportionate armed intervention. While he certainly didn’t do all that he could have to combat genocide in Africa, a decision that he later called his “greatest regret,” Clinton worked to bring peace to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

Some of Clinton’s best work has been done since he left office.

In September 2005, Clinton founded the Clinton Global Initiative with the goal of establishing a community of leaders, scholars and citizens “to identify and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, including poverty alleviation, climate change, global health and education.” In the four years since, the CGI has raised billions of dollars to help fight infectious disease and malnutrition in Africa, fight childhood obesity in the United States, work to stop global warming and send underprivileged children to school around the world.

Clinton even teamed up with his predecessor, former President George H. W. Bush, to help with disaster relief following the 2004 tsunami in Asia. More recently, he made a trip to North Korea to help secure the release of a pair of American journalists being held by the repressive regime.

While the Nobel Committee’s decision to endorse Obama’s vision by awarding him the Nobel peace prize is understandable, the award was still given prematurely. One of the many other individuals who are worthy of this year’s honor (Clinton, in my view) should have been the 2009 winner of the peace prize.

Brian Shaud is a sophomore in the College.

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