Barack Obama: Employee of the month?
"Perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander in chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars," Obama said during his Nobel prize acceptance speech in Oslo. But it wasn't the only time he emphasized his job responsibilities. "I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King," he explained later. "But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone."
The repetition of the job description reads as a rejoinder not to critics so much as supporters. Obama is arguing that he's not a symbol or an inspiration so much as he is an employee, and his position comes with a certain set of responsibilities, and certain suite of strictures, and he means to live within those confines. He's not a King or a Gandhi because that's not, well, his job. The vision that people have of him -- the vision that got him the Nobel peace prize -- is not an understanding of the role he currently occupies, and means to continue occupying.
It's rare, I imagine, for someone to accept the Nobel Peace Prize by explaining that they have no intention of following in the footsteps of King and Gandhi. But that was Obama's argument yesterday. It wasn't an argument with King or Gandhi so much as with the expectations and hopes his global, and many of his domestic, supporters have for him. Obama is president now, and though he may speak in poetry, the job demands that he work in prose.
Photo credit: Jarl Erichsen/Getty.
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