Often, when any of us hear about some event, we speculate on how we'd act in a similar situation.
Usually our response is something like, "If that had been me, I would have (fill in the blank)." Understandably, because we typically are the heroes in our own autobiographies, even those lived only in our imaginations, our responses inevitably would have been better, or faster, or wiser than the actual response of the real person in the tale.
It also helps that we typically are given the luxury of time to choreograph our perfect response. Our aim is thus true when we pull our legally concealed weapon and take down a bank robber, or our timing precise in rescuing a toddler from train-tracks.
Keeping all this in mind, and with appropriate grains of salt: I've never been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I have a pretty good idea of how I'd react if I were.
I'd politely decline.
"Well, of course you would!" the audience harrumphs with incredulity. Ah, but I have a little proof to back up my personal claim of noble Nobel humility.
Several years ago, when the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce initiated its Lifetime Achievement Award, I was a member of the panel assembled to review and vote on the nominees.
When we met at the Chamber office to review the entries, I was told that I had been nominated for that inaugural award. Twice.
I could either decline the nominations, or remove myself from the group of judges.
With zero hesitation, I declined the nominations. My immediate reaction was that it was tremendously premature for me, then in my mid-40s, to be considered for a "lifetime" award.
Besides: I had nominated the man who turned out to be the eventual winner: Bill Jackson. (Don't tell him; it'll go to his head.) What possible achievements in my relatively narrow field of experience could I compare to Jackson and the other nominees' decades of public service?
Because I'm writing this autobiographical sketch and can spin it any way I want, it would be easy to describe the rhetorical flourishes with which I selflessly declined the nomination.
My actual response was far less climactic: A flash of ego that someone thought enough of me to make the nomination was quickly followed by a you-gotta-be-kidding moment. I yanked my nominations out of the stack so we could get on with business.
The Chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award is a pretty prestigious prize, but it isn't the Nobel. But from where I sit, the parallel fits.
President Barack Obama knows if the Nobel Peace Prize is to have any meaning, then he isn't remotely qualified to receive it - especially when you compare his wishful-thinking rhetoric to the tangible achievements of some of the other 204 nominees.
Those nominees include a man who endured kidnapping and assault to establish 84 schools for girls in Pakistan; a Colombian senator held captive by Marxist rebels for 6 1/2 years; a physician in the Republic of Congo who provided health services to victims of sexual assault; and the imprisoned "Father of Chinese Democracy."
What has Obama achieved compared to any of them?
From the comfortable chair of a Monday-morning quarterback, I long ago would have told the Nobel committee to pull my name from the list.
After all: President Obama had not yet served two weeks in office when the nomination deadline came. He has received an award for nothing more than good intentions.
By that standard, perhaps I should have kept my own name on the list for Columbia County's Lifetime Achievement award. Because the other nominees were much older, I could have made an eloquent case for why my future achievements surely would eclipse them all.
Instead, I tried to keep my feet on planet Earth, and we gave the award to a real star. I'm disappointed that President Obama declined to do likewise.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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