LONDON, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- The Norwegian Nobel Committee has piled him high with lemons, and even though President Barack Obama side-stepped the absurdity as best he could, he has yet to find the real American answer -- turning the Nobel lemons into lemonade.
It's fine for Obama to say he's awed and unworthy and he sees it as an inspiration to do better. But his record so far is painfully thin. His secretary of state began her tenure by assuring the Chinese that she would not be pressing them on human rights. Obama himself keeps announcing that his administration won't lecture other nations, and his Sudan expert backs away from the word "genocide."
Obama's climate change legislation is stuck in Congress, so he'll be going empty-handed to the U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December. He has so far put no discernible pressure on Israel, so the Middle East looks stalled as usual. He may have handed Putin an agreeable concession by dropping the Bush plans for anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, but he publicly stiffed two solid European allies to do so.
And Obama's latest effort for international peace and decency was to decide against meeting with the Dalai Lama, a fellow Nobel Peace laureate, because he does not want to upset China. So other than a few nice speeches, Obama's international record is close to being an embarrassment. His level of action and accomplishment is so low that the speeches themselves are starting to sound hollow.
Maybe there is a way to make some lemonade out of this. Obama's answer to another North Korean A-bomb test was to assure Russia's Vladimir Putin and the United Nations that the United States is serious about nuclear disarmament.
So he should be. After all, the nuclear powers have long pledged that they would seek to whittle away at their arsenals as their side of the bargain under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That was the price they promised to pay to dissuade lots of other countries from clambering onto the nuclear bandwagon.
So maybe it's time to get serious about this at a wider level than simply a negotiation with the Kremlin. Bear in mind that a whole host of the grand old men of national security from both parties have called for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. They include Henry Kissinger and George Schulz -- former Republican secretaries of state -- former Defense Secretary Bill Perry and former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn -- two distinguished Democrats.
So Obama should say that he is accepting the prize, not just for himself, but for all these distinguished abolitionists, and also for another great American president who really deserved it. And he should donate the cash for the prize to erect a plaque at American University in Washington on the very spot where President John F. Kennedy made a really great speech on June 10, 1963, less than six months before his assassination. Unlike most of Obama's speeches, Kennedy actually said something. He announced the opening of the talks on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
We seek, Kennedy said, "not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on Earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time."
To commemorate the Kennedy speech, and to brew the lemonade that makes the most of the Nobel Prize, Obama should invite all the heads of nuclear-armed states (including Israel) to join him at American University and make a common pledge to build on the foundations Kennedy laid.
It might just work. The Kennedy name still has iconic status. And world leaders like Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are practical men and should appreciate the businesslike and wholly practical way Kennedy chartered his roadmap toward peace. He made it clear he was not thinking of some Woodrow Wilson-like ideal of universal peace and goodwill and sitting round a global campfire singing "kumbaya," which is how Obama tends to sound. Kennedy talked of slow, steady steps agreed by serious leaders seeking an achievable goal.
"Let us focus," Kennedy said, on "a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions -- on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace; no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process -- a way of solving problems.
"With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it."
And why stop at American University? Once the precedent of a meeting of the nuclear leaders has been launched, let them reconvene the following year at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima and learn just what nuclear weapons really mean. Let them meet again at Chernobyl to be reminded of the awesome power of the atom. And another year they should visit the secret laboratories that Saddam Hussein hid from international inspectors for so long. Let our leaders get serious about this, and Obama will have earned his Nobel. And a debt long overdue will have been paid to Kennedy.