Nobel Prize entering the 21st century: just not fast enough

In 1936 a young man was born in Kanyadhiang village, Rachuonyo District on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya. At age 23, he fathered a son with a young lady from Kansas named Ann Dunham. The two, now deceased, would have been very proud to know that their son, Barack Hussein Obama II was last week announced winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1936 a young man was born in Kanyadhiang village, Rachuonyo District on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya. At age 23, he fathered a son with a young lady from Kansas named Ann Dunham.

The two, now deceased, would have been very proud to know that their son, Barack Hussein Obama II was last week announced winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

It did not come as a surprise that seven of the 2009 Nobel Prize winners are American.

What many did not notice is that four of the seven are actually immigrants - born outside of the United States. As newcomer in the country, I have experienced, first hand, the anti-immigration trend that is sometimes blamed on the recession.

The rationale being that everyone born outside the United States is taking away ‘American’ jobs.

What this year’s Nobel Prizes bring to light is the fact that the United States is a nation made up of immigrants, who drive its innovation economy. Statistics indicate that foreign-born science and engineering students earn one-third of all Ph.D.s awarded in the United States.

No one acknowledges this better than Barack Obama who, in his inaugural speech, said ‘…for we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth...’

It is this unifying tone that helped him win this year’s Peace Prize. While naysayer’s cry foul over the irreversible fact that he won the award – and whether it was deserved – President Obama is and will continue to be, in my view, the greatest beacon of hope this decade.

The Prize signals America’s return insofar as its mantle of global leadership is concerned. This after the Bush era that was defined by blunders in foreign policy, atrocious human rights abuses and the reckless disregard of the international community and international law.

The Nobel Prize comes of age at a time when there are challenges that Alfred Nobel could have never thought of. Issues of global concern like climate change and ozone depletion would have left him flummoxed.

Many fundamental breakthroughs in technology and science do not received recognition from the Nobel Foundation.

In terms of sciences, the Nobel committee only rewards physics, chemistry and medicine: leaving out genetics, engineering, computer science, environment and public health.

It is important for the Prize to evolve in a way recognizes the contribution of scientists that are struggling to meet the most important challenges of the 21st century like climate change.

The authorr is a US based student, freelance writer and policy analyst.

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