North Oakland’s reactions to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize are mixed

on October 9, 2009

For security guard Marques Martin, Friday started off with good news.  Martin, 23, was working a shift at North Oakland’s Verns Shopping Center as day broke and the world began to talk about President Barack Obama’s reception of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee gave Obama the honor for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” according to the committee’s web site, and Martin thought the it was well deserved.

“He’s the first African-American president and he’s changed the world around us, and he really needs that acknowledged,” Martin said.

Oakland resident Marques Martin, a security guard, said Barrack Obama deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Marques Martin

Yet not all of the people interviewed in North Oakland Friday morning said that the president deserves the award, which has gone to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama.  While none of those interviewed said they object to the Nobel Committee’s decision—in fact, most welcomed it—some people questioned whether the award matches Obama’s current record of accomplishments.

Lamont Carter, 34, also interviewed at the Verns Shopping Center, said Obama has yet to prove himself in the arenas of international affairs and domestic policy.  Carter said he’s concerned by the country’s ongoing wave of foreclosures and that American troops remain in Iraq in Afghanistan.

Carter questions whether Obama can stop the country from engaging in more armed conflict.

“That’s going to keep continuing to happen,” Carter said.

Oakland resident Lamont Carter questioned whether Obama can stop wars in Iraq in Afghanistan.

Lamont Carter

Oakland architect Thad Shaffer, who was starting his morning at a nearby Peet’s Coffee & Tea, was pleased by the president’s award, but said he would like to see more progress on Middle East peace talks and a clearer vision of the future for countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It seems like he hasn’t done enough yet,” said Shaffer, 58.

UC Berkeley graduate student Diana Lee, 26, added that Nobel Prizes often go to leaders with longer tenures in office and more concrete accomplishments.  Lee wondered whether the award went to Obama because he is a symbol of political change.

“For Obama, I’m not exactly sure what they’re pointing to,” said Lee, who studies development economics.

Yet other Oakland residents said Obama’s efforts to promote peace are deserving of an award, even if conflicts don’t end immediately.

Shanic Melfort

Shanic Melfort

“He cares about having peace in other countries, and I think he deserves it,” said Shanic Melfort, 26.

Oakland resident Carrey Whiteside said the award adds to Obama’s legacy of accomplishments, which is inspiring to many people in the community.

“He set a good example for our young black Americans,” said Whiteside, 55.  “He wants to end the war but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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