Albright defends Obama's Nobel Peace Prize - East Valley Tribune: News

Albright defends Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

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Posted: Monday, October 12, 2009 5:30 pm | Updated: 2:36 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Nobel Foundation likely gave President Barack Obama its Peace Prize as an incentive to him — and the United States in general — to stay involved in international affairs, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Monday.

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The Nobel Foundation likely gave President Barack Obama its Peace Prize as an incentive to him — and the United States in general — to stay involved in international affairs, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Monday.

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“In my life story, I can honestly say there have been a whole series of times when America was not engaged, terrible things happened. And when we were, it made a difference,” Albright said. “And so I think the prize is in order to encourage not only him but Americans to understand what our role is in the world, and that we need to help.”

Albright, the first woman to serve as secretary of state, was in Phoenix to receive the lifetime achievement award from the Arizona Foundation for Women. She spoke about last week’s Nobel prize to those in attendance and later, to Capitol Media Services.

The idea that the prize was awarded not for anything Obama has done yet is not unique. The president himself said last week he did not see it as recognition for any accomplishments “but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”

“One never knows what is exactly in their minds,” Albright said of the decision by members of the award committee. “But they didn’t do this accidentally. I think it is in order to encourage the United States to be actively involved.”

Albright specifically chided those who have been critical of Obama for being awarded the prize.

“I mean, he didn’t nominate himself,” she said. “And I think that he accepted it with the appropriate humility and understood that this was more about hope he engenders and what people expect of America.”

But Albright said there was more than just hope behind the move by the Nobel committee.

She specifically cited the president’s June speech in Cairo where Obama said he wants “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”

And Albright also cited an earlier speech in Prague where he talked of “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

But Albright said more needs to happen beyond getting the award for Obama to actually bring the rest of the country along.

“Part of his job as president is to encourage the American people to understand how our lives are intertwined with those in other countries,” Albright said. “He can argue it on the basis of national interest or on the basis of human rights or altruism. But I think that’s part of what he has to do.”

Albright acknowledged that the disillusionment with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led a desire by some to withdraw from the international community and pay attention to solely what is occurring within our own borders or directly related to our own interests.

“I think that’s exactly what we can’t be headed for,” she said.

Albright said the key is how the president and his administration phrase the issues.

She recalled her days as secretary of state in the Clinton administration when she referred to the United States as the “indispensable nation.”

“There’s nothing about the word 'indispensable’ that says 'alone,’” Albright said. She said her comments came after the end of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union and after the first Gulf War.

“And I was afraid that people would look inward,” she said. “I wanted Americans to know that our good life depends on stability in other parts of the world.”

That message, she said, also is important when some Americans, fearful of losing their jobs to overseas firms, may want the United States out of international affairs and to let other countries fend for themselves.

“I think that makes it more difficult,” she said of the need to stay involved, “which is why you need people to explain how many jobs are dependent on our exports or how the international economy shows how interdependent we are.”

Albright also talked about her new book, “Read My Pins,” based on her practice of wearing jewelry based not only on her moods but also on her desire to send a message.

She related wearing her “three monkeys” pin — hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil — to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, knowing he would ask about it. She responded that it was to chide the Russian leader about the crackdown on Chechnya and his refusal to acknowledge the human rights violations taking place.

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