It is with little exaggeration that I say people the world over are scratching their heads at the selection of President Barack Obama to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. Even the president's own spokesman was caught seemingly unaware.
The obvious criticism over the selection is that the man - despite all the soaring rhetoric and charming charisma - has accomplished little compared to others who have a lifetime of achievements to warrant such recognition. Nominations for the award were due February 1, which means Obama was nominated before completing 10 days in office.
Obama supporters are fond of countering his impatient detractors by saying he can't fix all that's wrong with the country in the short time he's been in office. "Give him a chance," is the common refrain. Fair enough. But that tacit admission of to-date relative ineffectiveness is a saw that cuts both ways. Those who defend Obama by saying he's not been given enough time to effect the change he's promised cannot maintain intellectual honesty if they say this award is based on the change he's delivered. Obama himself said the award was based largely on, "aspirations."
It seems this is as much an award withheld from George W. Bush as it is an award bestowed upon Barack Obama. Whether you agree with that analysis or its underlying suggestion, it is a shame the Nobel process has become thus politicized.
But lying deeper here is a message becoming regrettably more prevalent in society: Judge by intentions, not results. I blogged about this several months ago in relation to an article pointing out teachers' growing refusal to correct and growing tendency to equivocate. We simply don't call a spade a spade anymore: Incorrect answers are justified by criticizing the question, half-hearted effort is encouraged for the fact it is an effort at all. The pursuit of excellence and concrete results has been rendered impotent by our obsession with "what we meant to do."
There is inherent danger when we reward words over actions. In the workplace, for example, planning and executing are two fundamentally different animals, and require different skill sets. In my profession, the most effective media campaign on paper means little if it does not enhance my employer's visibility in the industry via tangible results. The degree to which we value intention over production is the degree to which all are misled, and ultimately damaged.
We know something else about valuing rhetoric over results in life: Eventually, the bill comes due. At some point, excuses run out, and your boss (employer, spouse, electorate) will want to see results. That is why it is so important this problem of rewarding intentions be corrected in our schools and why the message the Nobel Committee sent today is so damaging.
It is now incumbent upon Obama to produce the change for which such an award has already credited him. For the rest of us, a lesson: Far better to be recognized for what you do, not what you say.
You feel me?